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Your vote matters: get your US election ballot in today

The 2020 US election is fast approaching. If you’re a US citizen abroad, and with the added concerns around Covid-19, this is certainly not the year to delay voting.

Your vote matters: get your US election ballot in today
Ballot/FWAB State transmission methods (see full details from FVAP below)

Wherever you are, help is at hand. The Local has teamed up with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), which supports US citizens living abroad to vote absentee.

Hopefully, you’ve already requested your absentee ballot – that's the crucial first step, so do it right now if you haven't already. You still have time – and every state allows you to receive your ballot by email.

Once your ballot arrives, don’t hang on to it! Here are four reasons to return your ballot the moment it arrives in your hands – or your email inbox.

Quick! Find out how to vote absentee as a US citizen abroad while you still have time

1. To make sure your voice is heard

Are you one of the three million Americans abroad who is eligible to vote? Want to be certain your voice will be heard? Then, return your ballot immediately! Turnout among eligible overseas voters was only 6.9 percent in the 2016 US election – and even lower for the 2018 mid-terms.

Maybe you've got lost in the voting process? Don't worry. If you’ve requested a ballot but haven’t received it, ask your election office about its status. Hoping to save yourself some time by voting by email? See the map below or click here to check your options for returning your ballot (or your FWAB – more on that below) in your state – by email, fax or mail.

2. For peace of mind amid the pandemic …

Need or plan to return your ballot by mail? You have even more reason to act immediately.  You can contact your local post office about possible delivery delays due to Covid-19 (more information from FVAP here).

So, what if your state only allows mail-in ballots and you’re worried about delays? FVAP suggests seeing if you can send your ballot by diplomatic pouch from a nearby Embassy or consulate

You may also want to check the latest list of countries to which the United States Postal Service (USPS) has suspended mail due to the pandemic.

The final recommended vote-by-date from abroad is October 13. But why leave it so long? If you want to feel sure your vote will count, return your ballot now! 

Make your vote count: see FVAP's guidance on voting absentee from abroad

3. To get your “I Voted From Abroad” sticker! 

Voting absentee doesn’t mean you have to miss out on getting one of those “I Voted” stickers. In fact, as an American abroad who played your part in the democratic process, you can get a special version reading: “I Voted From Abroad”.

You can display it on social media to let your friends and family know you voted. Perhaps your sticker will even motivate others to vote too.

4. Because you have a ready-made back-up plan

Are you running out of time? You can’t always count on everything working out as you expect. But when it comes to voting as an American abroad, you get a ready-made back-up ballot – so even if your requested ballot doesn’t arrive, you can still vote.

It’s called the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Use this if your regular ballot doesn’t reach you in good time. A few states may allow you to vote via FWAB even if you haven’t already applied for a regular ballot.

Running out of time to return your ballot? Find out more about voting with the FWAB

 

For members

TRAVEL

US reclassifies Switzerland: What does it mean for American travellers?

America’s public health agency eased travel alerts for dozens of countries this week, including Switzerland. But does it mean that people from the United States can now travel here?

US reclassifies Switzerland: What does it mean for American travellers?
Not yet, but hopefully soon. Photo by Jan Rosolino / Unsplash

Switzerland in early June announced vaccinated travellers would be able to come on June 28th. Therefore, this story is now out of date. Please click here for more information. 

Due to massive vaccination efforts around the world, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered travel warning levels  for more than 110 countries and destinations, including Switzerland.

From the highest level four previously, which means all travel is discouraged, Switzerland was ‘promoted’ to Level 3, allowing travel for fully vaccinated individuals.

In total, 14 countries, including Switzerland’s neighbours France and Italy, have been reclassified to a lower level.

Does this mean American tourists can now come to Switzerland?

Even though the CDC has cleared travel for vaccinated US residents, it doesn’t mean they are now allowed to enter Switzerland.

For the time being, travel ban is still in place for most third countries, including the United States. The only exceptions are Swiss citizens or permanent residents returning to Switzerland.

READ MORE: When will Americans be allowed to travel to Switzerland again —and vice-versa?

There are some other exemptions as well, including people whose presence in Switzerland is absolutely necessary to maintain the functioning of the healthcare system or public security and order, death of a close family member in Switzerland, and to continue essential medical treatment that began in Switzerland or abroad.

Each of these conditions must be proven with official documentation.

For other ‘special necessity’ rules, see SEM’s page.

Basically, this means that tourists or other random travellers can’t come to Switzerland at the moment.

There are, however, some promising signs that this restriction may be lifted.

Swiss president Guy Parmelin is scheduled to meet with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, on June 15th. Biden will be in Geneva for high-level talks with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. 

It is not known what Switzerland and the United States will discuss at the meeting, beyond matters of importance to both nations, but there is a possibility that the subject of easing travel restrictions on both sides will be raised.

Also, under France’s new traffic light travel system, fully-vaccinated travellers can now enter France from non-EU countries, including the US.

This does not apply to Switzerland yet, but as the two countries share a border and both are part of the Schengen zone, Swiss entry regulations for US tourists might be relaxed in the near future — though not at this time.

Does this mean US residents can ‘slip’ into Switzerland through France?

Borders between the two countries are pretty porous and checks random at best, but if you attempt to get into Switzerland this way, you’d be breaking the law.

The only US citizens who can come into Switzerland legally right now are those residing in the EU/EFTA states, or one of the third nations deemed safe by public health officials:  Australia, New Zealand, Cyprus, Rwanda, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.

In other words, it’s not the nationality of a traveller that counts but their place of residence.

What about Swiss citizens going on vacation to the United States?

The US still has a ban in place for tourists from the EU, including Switzerland. It also has similar exceptions — that is, US citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad.

The US is forming expert groups to decide when to lift global travel restrictions that have been in place since March 2020.

However, this will probably take time and, despite mounting pressure from the travel industry and airlines, US-bound travel may not be on the horizon for this summer.

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

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