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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Anne-Shelton Aaron's Op-Ed from Le News

US mid-terms: What Americans need to know!

With US mid-term elections coming up, expatriate Americans need to be aware of their rights and how to go about voting.

GENEVA   An American friend recently recounted how his parents, after many years of living in Switzerland, were surprised to learn that they still had the right to vote in US federal elections. In fact, every American citizen, 18 and over living outside of the United States has the right to vote.

And with the onset of mid-term elections that may be decisive in the balance of power in Washington, D.C. for years to come, exercising that right, this year, is as important as ever. Democrats Abroad is working hard to encourage US citizens resident in Switzerland to “go out and vote”.

Social events of all kinds, conference calls with candidates, phone-banking and non-partisan voter registration are being organized by members of Democrats Abroad to help register all Americans, using votefromabroad.org, the first website ever developed to register overseas Americans.

Having registered before is no longer enough – based on the MOVE Act of 2010, each state requires overseas citizens to re-register every election cycle. Even if they do send your ballot automatically, if you didn’t request it for the current cycle, it can be contested in a close race. Doing it right is critically important for several reasons.

Mid-term elections usually draw smaller turnouts than presidential election years and can be unrepresentative, giving small, motivated groups bigger impact. What’s more, the millions of Americans living overseas – there don’t seem to be accurate figures – play an increasingly important role in elections, and have tipped the balance in a number of election years. This is why our voices are increasingly hard for either party to ignore.

There are many critical issues on the table today that may be decided along party line. First, there is the composition of Congress. In addition to all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 36 seats in the Senate are in play, 21 held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. Who controls the Senate will have a huge impact on major issues such as immigration reform, infrastructure repair, employment practices, climate and environment, LGBT rights, the budget and other financial issues affecting the livelihoods and the quality of life of Americans living in Switzerland.

For more than 50 years, Democrats Abroad has been advocating in Washington for overseas Americans on these issues of concern, keeping them informed of the candidates and the elections and helping them to register and vote. Some Americans may be concerned that voting can affect state and local tax status. Voting in some state and local elections may potentially do so, but voting in federal elections doesn’t.

As the first state deadline of 4 October approaches, register now to make your voices heard! Registering is easy. Go to: VotefromAbroad.org.

Anne-Shelton Aaron is Chair of the Democrats Abroad Switzerland

Original article can be found on Le Web website at http://lenews.ch/2014/09/26/americans-need-to-vote/

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