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Voting Abroad

I’ve been living in Sweden for just over 4 years now, meaning that I was new to this whole living abroad thing and had no idea how to vote last election. Like everything when it comes to moving to a different country, it was a learning experience. Without bringing politics into the mix, I think it’s important for everyone to exercise their right to vote:

Living abroad shouldn’t be an excuse or reason not to. Living abroad doesn’t mean that our votes don’t matter. Let’s not miss our chance to be heard.

Why? What’s the big deal?

There are more than enough American citizens living abroad (see below) to make a difference. It might not feel that way but our votes do add up, no matter where we are residing or which state we are registered to.

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After living in Sweden for the past few years and learning about how politics and society work here I realized that we – Americans living abroad – have a very unique perspective on things:

  • We have a helpful and healthy amount of distance from some issues that other Americans don’t have.
  • At the same time, we have first hand experience with other issues (citizenship versus residency based taxation for example) that most Americans don’t even know exist.
  • We have seen and experienced first hand what works or doesn’t work in other countries and can make connections and comparisons that others aren’t able to make.
  • We don’t live in America’s bubble. Some of us can be more aware of international affairs, having access to more than one side of the story.

So, why vote this year? Why bother with the primaries? Isn’t it enough to wait until November? The race is so tight between candidates in each party this year that cards are being drawn and coins are being tossed to break ties. This is one of those times when absentee ballots from Americans abroad are making a real difference.

I became a Swedish citizen about a month after Swedish elections here last year, so I wasn’t able to vote, but I did tag along and see the process. When I did some research I was surprised to find that the majority of age-appropriate Swedes do make it to the polls and cast their vote – in fact it’s one of the countries with the highest voting turn out…while The United States has one of the lowest.

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Pewresearch.org

There’s a lot of reasons why The United States has a low percentage of voters that I’m not going to discuss, but citizens living abroad (for whatever reason) not bothering to or knowing how to vote is on that list. Just because we aren’t in the country we shouldn’t be dragging down the numbers shown above and making our democracy less effective.

The fact is that voting from outside the United States is a pain in the butt. There are forms to fill out and send out and extra dates to remember. In general an absentee ballot needs to be applied for (here) a few months in advance in order to send it in on time, meaning that by the time presidential elections in November or primaries (Feb-June depending on your state) come along, it’s already too late if you didn’t have enough forethought.

Thankfully, there are organizations that try to make it easier –  making it possible for Americans living abroad to vote IN PERSON for the primaries and provide on-the-spot help with registration  for the presidential election in 40 countries.

I’m not claiming to know all the details of voting abroad, but for those of you that read this blog because you’ve moved from The United States to Sweden and are interested in being heard, I thought this information would be helpful for you:

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Of course you can also vote in Stockholm, it’s just not on this flyer:

Stockholm: Tully’s Coffee, Götgatan 42, 11826 Stockholm

Thursday, March 3rd from 17:00 to 20:00

Saturday, March 5th from 12:00 to 17:00

I have no affiliations with Democrats Abroad, but was very happy to see that they have set up polling stations throughout Sweden and I wanted to make sure that as many people knew about it as possible. If you register and vote through them you will be influencing 17 delegates since American citizens abroad are counted as their own “state.”

If you are an American living anywhere else in the world or are interested in Republican options, I highly encourage you to look into your options.

Here are a few direct links to get you started (due to the time sensitivity I haven’t read up on more than I needed to in order to share this information):

votefromabroad.org

aaci.org.

overseasvotefoundation.org

americansabroad.org

justice.gov

Helpful facebook groups:

American Expatriates

Expats in Sweden

North Americans in Sweden


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Visiting Stockholm

For a list of things to do in Stockholm, scroll to the bottom of the page.

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I’ve been living in Sweden for three years, visiting for six, and yet have never made the trip to the capital until last weekend when a friend invited me along for the ride. While we didn’t have time to go to any of the museums or see many of the sites, we had fun nonetheless.  Stockholm seems to have a lot to offer when you have the time.

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After a 6 hour car ride we arrived at 3:00pm,  exactly ten minutes before the only thing we planned to do – a 90 minute boat ride. Our guide explained the history and significance of buildings and statues as we glided through the water with the beautiful view of Stockholm’s quaint skyline on the horizon. If the weather would have been better we would have seen it all during sunset, but it was grey skies the whole day. Still, Stockholm was beautiful.

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By the time we made it back to land around 4:30, it was dark and we were freezing (because of course when everyone went back inside the boat after 15 minutes, we stayed on the roof for an extra 30 soaking in the sites…and the frostbite)

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So, we walked towards the only thing we recognized, the royal castle, and darted into the first nearby café we found. It was cozy, the beverages were warm and the pie was delicious.  Little did we know that everything would be closed by the time we headed out again, being 5:30 on a Sunday.

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Café from Day#2, Chokladtoppen

Luckily we were more interested in walking around and looking at the buildings anyway. We wandered around taking photos of everything while laughing at nothing.

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My favorite part was all of the winding  side alleys.

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All the while, I made mental notes of everything I wanted to do when I came back (preferably during better weather).

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Eventually it was time to eat and go back to our hotel, we had more traveling to do the next morning. Stockholm at night and Stockholm during daylight are two very different things – both picturesque in their own ways. After about an hour of re-exploring the area around the castle it was time to go; my friend’s sister had a plane to catch and we had another 6 hour drive ahead of us.

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After doing research for this visit (naively thinking we would have more time), asking Something Swedish readers for advice on Facebook, and actually being there and getting a feel for the city here’s my list.

Some things to do in Stockholm:

Museums:
The Vasa Museum: See a ship that sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage (due to having too many canons) right outside Stockholm and was salvaged in 1961. Due to the low salt content in the water on the west coast on Stockholm the ship remained well preserved and is an incredible and unique piece of history.
The Nobel Prize Museum: Take a journey through the past 100 years of extraordinary ideas, inventions, discoveries, initiative and courage that has molded the world we live in.
The ABBA Museum: The one thing everyone knows about Sweden in ABBA, so why not learn more about them and “experience the feeling of being the 5th ABBA member”
The Museum of Spirits: Also known as the Absolut museum, this is a chance to mix  a liquor tasting with history and art of “Swedish people’s bittersweet relationship to alcohol”.

The Medieval Museum: A free underground exhibition that gives you a taste of history, from architecture to daily living.

To See:
Gamla Stan “The Old City” The original city of Stockholm before it expanded. This is where we spent all of our time/where all these pictures are from.
The Changing of the Guard Watch the ceremonial tradition outside the royal castle
Skansen World’s oldest open air museum displaying Sweden’s traditional culture and architecture
Stockholm’s Subway Art  90% of the subway stations are decorated with art (sculptures, mosaics, paintings, engravings) by over 150 artists, some worth a special trip to see.

To Do:
Boat Tours We did the “winter tour” but will certainly be back to do another, the bridge tour is supposed to be magical.
Hot Air Ballooning A unique way to experience Stockholm
Ice Bar Who doesn’t want to get drunk while in a winter coat, drinking from an ice glass and sitting on an ice chair?
Stockholm Improv This is supposed to be a very funny improv show about being a foreigner in Sweden.
Skyview on top of The Globe Get a great view of the city by sitting on top of the largest hemispherical building in the world. Or go inside the globe to watch some ice hockey!