Sleepless in the City of Light
The U.S. presidential debate happened while we were sleeping, but I wasn’t sleeping at all. Instead, I was having nightmares about my vote not being counted. Yesterday I realized that I hadn’t gotten my absentee ballot, but have proof of having registered to vote absentee in Louisiana. The thought of not exercising my right and privilege to vote had me reeling.
Forty-five days before November general elections, your state is supposed to send you a blank ballot either electronically or via mail at the address you provided on your FPCA (Federal Post Card Application). I didn’t get mine. Fortunately there is such a thing as an Emergency Write-in Ballot (fwab).
“If you completed all required steps but have not received your ballot 30 days before an election, submit a completed Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Contact the voting assistance officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for help, or visit the FVAP website to complete an FWAB using the online assistant. Write in the candidates of your choice, then print, sign, and send the FWAB to your local election officials. If your regular absentee ballot arrives after submitting a FWAB, you should still complete and return it. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot does not reach local election officials by your state’s deadline. This will not invalidate your vote or result in casting two votes.”
“You or another person can drop off your ballot request (FPCA) or completed ballot at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for return to the United States. It must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient U.S. postage, or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP website. Contact the U.S. embassy voting assistance officer or visit the embassy’s website for specific instructions.”
Guess I might be headed down to the U.S. embassy as a last resort! Another blessing for those like me who are sleeplessly fretting over not having voted on time is that as of August 2020, a total of 40 states now offer online registration (even though there is some risk in this), and one other state (Oklahoma) has passed legislation and is currently phasing-in implementation of their online registration. See the table for details on the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) website.
Sleepless you might be, too, if you’re living abroad, and mistakenly gave up more than your ability to vote at a U.S. voting poll. Maybe you thought you didn’t need that U.S. bank account, or U.S. credit card or U.S. phone now that you’re living in France or elsewhere. And then you learned the hard way what a big mistake that was. One of the advantages we have as U.S. citizens living outside of the U.S. is just that privilege—to continue to behave and be treated as a U.S. citizen.
Even if you have lived here as long as I have, it’s imperative to maintain some sort of U.S. address. Maybe it’s your parents’ or your sister’s or a friend’s, but you will always need an address to call your own, upon which you can create a home base. As a special trick I learned early on, any mail you get to that address can be forwarded to you outside of the U.S. free of charge. The recipient only needs to put a forwarding address for you on the envelope and drop it back in the mail. The U.S. postal service does the rest, free of charge. (I swear, this is true and I’ve proven it now for 26 years.)
Never close your U.S. bank accounts. In fact, it’s a good idea never to close any bank account unless it’s costing you monthly fees and you have others on which you can rely. You never know when you might need it! Remember when we were awarded relief fund payments this past year and they went into your U.S. bank account? What would you have done without it? Forego the $1200 credit?
Never shut down your U.S. credit cards, either. Using your U.S. credit cards outside of the U.S., as long as there are no foreign transaction fees associated with its use, is a great way of using your U.S. currency at nominal cost because the rate of exchange the credit cards offer is normally a whole lot less than the cost of transferring funds to your foreign bank accounts.
On that note, if you aren’t using a currency broker to transfer funds from dollars to euros, then you’re probably spending money unnecessarily. The banks traditionally charge about 3 percent between the “buy” and the “sell” rates. Even if they tell you they “charge nothing” for this service, look again. The currency brokers are in the business of exchange and will charge about 1 percent instead. Why pay the bank when it’s not necessary? For the most efficient and cost effective way of transferring funds from one currency to another, choose a broker we recommend. For more information, see our recommendations here.
Don’t shut down your U.S. cell phone! You can change your subscription to a “pay as you go” plan so that it costs you very little to maintain a U.S. phone number. Capital One credit cards—like most of the U.S.-based credit cards—now have a two-step verification system that sends text messages only to a U.S. cell phone. I keep my U.S. phone plugged in, but on Airplane Mode until I need it for such a verification.
Keep your U.S. driving license up to date, unless you’ve exchanged it for a French driving license. This is yet another reason you need to maintain an address in the U.S. The funny thing is that the state issuing the license doesn’t have to be the state in which your address resides. California has now renewed my driving license many times, first with a Tennessee address and later with a Louisiana address, with no questions asked.
Trust me, you’ll be a much happier expatriate holding on to some of your U.S. fundamentals.
Another Sleepless Night is about to befall us all here in France—the annual “La Nuit Blanche“—on Saturday, October 3rd. The literal translation is “The White Night,” but the term means “Sleepless Night.” It’s an opportunity to stay out all night with the sole purpose of experiencing contemporary art in the City of Light. Contemporary creation in all its forms is put in the spotlight in the city, in public spaces, in prestigious monuments and buildings that are little known or inaccessible in normal times. It’s public and it’s free. Don’t miss it if you can help it.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Look into our Après Midi future. Visit that page to see who will be speaking next and what their presentation will be about. And plan to attend them all!