For American citizens living abroad, the deadline for registering to vote for the upcoming presidential election is coming up! We spoke with the new Consul General of Marseille about how ex-pats can register what services the US Consulate offers.
The US Consulate of Marseille is a full-service consulate for the Southern France region (including Occitane, PACA, Corsica and Monaco). They offer numerous services to US citizens and help cultural and scientific exchanges between the two countries. The Consul General is charged with running the local consulate and acting as a representative for US citizens and businesses in the area. This post rotates every four years and we spoke with the new Consul General, Kristen Grauer, who arrived this summer.
Also really important is voting services. We are non-partisan, of course, but we really try to get out the vote and encourage people to register in their last legal state of residence. And once someone is registered, sometimes the mail-in ballot doesn’t arrive in time, so we have Federal write-in ballots that we can provide.
When is the deadline for registering?
Now is the time! Each state is different, so there isn’t one exact date. But September is the time because there needs to be time to get the ballot in October. Americans need to register with their own state. Then, if it doesn’t arrive, that’s when we help out with a write-in.
How does someone register to vote, is there a website?
There are a few ways. People can find all the links on our website ( https://fr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/marseille/ ) and we have been posting links on our social media. But the main site is the Federal Voter Assistance Program or FVAP.gov ( https://www.fvap.gov/ ). Once there, they can follow the maze, clicking on their individual state, which is the last legal residence before moving abroad. And if people have any issues or questions, we can certainly help. But it’s a very user-friendly website.
What other services does the consulate offer?
We actually have a wide variety of services, but mainly, as the Secretary of State has clearly said, the health and security of American citizens is our number one priority. We will drop everything if an American is in need. So, we really focus on helping Americans.
We can do passports (renewals and replacements), report a birth abroad (birth certificates) and, unfortunately, assistance with death -- dealing with personal effects, repatriation of remains and notifying family members. We assist with voter registration and have Federal write-in ballots if your mail-in hasn’t arrived. We visit prisoners if you have been arrested, to make sure your rights are being respected and you’re being treated as well as local citizens. We offer victim assistance if someone is robbed or attacked, even domestic violence issues; and missing person assistance, whether someone is lost, abducted or just missing. We’ll drop everything for an emergency with an American.
Do Americans need to register with their local consulate?
We don’t have a requirement for Americans to ‘register’ with us but we strongly recommend that US citizens register in STEP, the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program which is found on travel.state.gov. What’s neat about it is that you go online and fill it out once with what countries you’ll be in and approximately when (it’s for travellers and residents) and it will automatically notify the local consulate. The benefits are that you are notified with important updates, including our voting information; travel alerts (esp now with Covid); security warnings whether it’s about natural disasters or reported violence. We have a ‘no double-standard’ policy that any security warnings given to us as government employees, we are required to share it with US citizens. And STEP is great for anyone travelling, even the backpacker, who would never normally register with a consulate.
For the full interview with Kristen Grauer, read the article in our Oct/Nov/Dec issue.