Absentee Voting Request 2018

2018 is an off-year election season for the US. Tracy and I previously exercised our right and duty as US citizens to vote, and have continued to vote while living abroad as expats. Our home state of Nevada makes the overseas voting process easy.

As in previous elections while we were residents in France, we simply go to the county registrar of voters’ website, in our case the Washoe County (Nevada) Registrar of Voters, to download a simple, one-page form to complete and return by mail with our signatures.

We have the option to request to vote in the primary, general, or all elections in 2018. If we were over the age of 65, we would also have the option to make our request for absentee voting status permanent.

Absentee ballots from Washoe County are mailed to overseas voters like us (and military service members, spouses, and their dependents) 45 days before all elections.

The Washoe County Registrar of Voters stresses that:

THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT A REQUEST FOR AN ABSENT BALLOT IS THE TUESDAY PRIOR TO ANY ELECTION, AT 5 pm.

WE STRONGLY URGE YOU TO SEND IN YOUR REQUEST AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  

REMEMBER, YOUR VOTED BALLOT MUST BE IN OUR OFFICE BY 7 pm ON ELECTION DAY IN ORDER FOR YOUR BALLOT TO BE COUNTED.

So far, voting absentee with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters Office has been easy and has worked flawlessly for us. But there are other options for oversea voters from other jurisdictions. There are currently over 8 million Americans living abroad of voting age.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program helps overseas US citizens, US military service members, and service members’ families to vote.

Many state Secretary of State offices will assist overseas voters. Nevada’s Secretary of State has the EASE program, Effective Abesentee to System for Elections, a totally online application and voting process that allows electronic voting for oversea Nevadans, Nevada military service members, and their families for elections that include a federal office race.

Federal law, the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986, ensures ours, the rights of other US expats, US government workers abroad to vote from oversea in federal elections. The law covers:

-Members of the seven US Uniformed Services

-Members of the US Merchant Marine

-Eligible family members of the above

-US citizens employed by the federal government residing outside the US.

-Other private US citizens residing outside the United States.

Our home state of Nevada also protects our right as US citizens to exercise our franchise to vote as expats living abroad.

Nevada Revised Statutes 293D.210 Eligibility of overseas voter to be covered voter.

An overseas voter is eligible to be a covered voter if:

1.  Before leaving the United States, the overseas voter was eligible to vote in this State and, except for the residency requirement, otherwise satisfies this State’s voter eligibility requirements;

2.  Before leaving the United States, the overseas voter would have been eligible to vote in this State had the overseas voter then been of voting age and, except for the residency requirement, otherwise satisfies this State’s voter eligibility requirements; or

3.  Was born outside the United States and, except for the residency requirement, otherwise satisfies the voter eligibility requirements set forth in NRS 293.485, so long as:

(a) The last place where a parent or legal guardian of the overseas voter was, or under this chapter would have been, eligible to vote before leaving the United States is within this State; and

(b) The overseas voter is not registered to vote in any other state.

So Tracy and I will again be exercising our right, privilege, and responsibility to vote in 2018. Now we are just hoping for some highly qualified candidates.

 

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Le Premier Bain de l’Année 2018 à Argelès-sur-Mer – First Swim Of The Year

For our first micro-adventure of 2018, I decided to join the crowd of 500 local residents in the New Year’s Day tradition of the first swim of the year in the Mediterranean Sea, the Bain du Nouvel An. Tracy expressed her doubts in my sanity, but encouraged me to go, and volunteered to take photos — from the shore. My lovely bride mentioned for me to avoid trouble as she would not be pleased to have to go in that cold water to save me.

Bain du Nouvel An Poster
Bain du Nouvel An Poster

The annual Bain du Nouvel An was held at Argèles-sur-Mer’s center beach at the end of the Esplanade Charles Trenet at 10:30 on New Year’s Day morning. The water temperature was 53.6′ F (12′ C) with the air temperature at 55′ F (13′ C).

The crowd was a mix of young and old, athletic and less athletic, swimmers and supporters. There was a Mardi Gras atmosphere with many swimmers wearing Santa hats, sparkling gem-color wigs, and one group with dayglow manga-style hair.

Swimmers with Manga Hair
Swimmers with Manga Hair

At 10:30 the swimmers rushed into the water while wet-suited lifeguards stood by for safety. Many swimmers were quickly “in and out” but others took to staying in the cold water as a challenge. I strode into the water fast to minimize the shock. The water was chilly, but I thought it was warmer than Lake Tahoe most the year. I quickly joined the ranks of the “in and out” swimmers on shore soon after Tracy got her photos.

Swimmers rush to the sea
Swimmers rush to the sea
Ta da!
Swimmers rushing to the sea.
Swimmers rushing to the sea.
Alan (definitely not Daniel Craig as 007 in
Alan (definitely not Daniel Craig as 007 in “Casino Royale”) leaving the Mediterranean.

After the swim there was free coffee and hot chocolate, and a table to pick up a certificate of participation. There was much laughing and looks of victory in the swimmers’ faces as they waited for their certificates. Tracy and my apartment is only two blocks away so a hot shower was only minutes away for me.

Alan with his Bain du Nouvel An certificate
Alan with his Bain du Nouvel An certificate
Bain du Nouvel An certificate
Bain du Nouvel An certificate

So, a Bain du Nouvel swim in 2019?  Let me warm up, drink my hot tea, and think about that. 

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART III)

Passport Card package from Marseille Consulate

The final document of my passport renewal came today.

My new passport card arrived by Chronopost after I received an e-mail yesterday from the US Consulate in Marseille advising me that the passport card was en route. It took only three weeks for my new passport booklet to arrive and ten weeks for my passport card. I need to compliment the Marseille Consulate again for its spectacular service.  I had incorrectly assumed that with living oversea there would be extensive delays to a passport renewal.

Passport Card package from Marseille Consulate
Passport Card package from Marseille Consulate

I now have my complete set (passport booklet and passport card) of United States travel documents, ready for use until their expiration in 2026.  My passport card will also double as an approved REAL ID document for future domestic US air travel and to enter high security US government offices without having to always carry my passport booklet. In all, it was a much easier process to renew my passport while living oversea than I anticipated.

Alan's Passport Card
Alan’s Passport Card

Related Posts:

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part I)

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART II)

 

Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII (Part 2)

Etta's OFII Letter

After a quick six day turn-around from OFII (L’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration – the French Office of Immigration and Integration) in Montpellier, we received a response to Etta’s Demande d’Attestation letter that we previous mailed to OFII advising that our niece Etta has arrived in France. (Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII [Part 1])

Etta's OFII Letter
Etta’s OFII Letter

The very rough translation of the letter from OFII is:

SUBJECT: Dossier VLS-TS, reference “Mineur Scolarise“visa.
On 30/01/2017, your Demande d’Attestation letter arrived, but the visa affix on passport is not VLS-TS but a “Mineur Scolarise“.
As such, you are not subject to the VLS-TS (adult long-stay visa) rules, are exempt from the residence card process, and are authorized to travel outside France within the Schengen Area.
On your 18th birthday, in order to continue your studies, you will have to formally request a residence card from the Prefecture having jurisdiction of your residence.
At that time, re-submit your Demande d’Attestation file to the Prefecture so that an appointment for the compulsory medical visit can be scheduled and you can be processed for your adult residence permit.
Please accept my best regards.
So, 17 year old Etta does not have to be concerned about re-sending her Demande d’Attestation until her 18th birthday in October 2017.  We will share Etta’s efforts for obtaining an adult long-stay student visa this coming October. Etta’s Demande d’Attestation form and its supporting documents are now waiting for October in our files for safekeeping.
In the mean time, Etta is now free to study and travel in Europe and doesn’t have to be concerned about any further paperwork with OFII until her milestone adult birthday.
Etta on the breakwater in Collioure, France
Etta on the breakwater in Collioure, France

Validating Etta’s Student Visa With OFII (Part 1)

"Demande d’Attestation OFII" form and supporting documents ready to be mailed

Our niece, Etta, and her parents completed her application for her long stay Mineur Scolarise (student under 18 years old) visa with the Consulate General of France in San Francisco. They completed the application process that required completing the application form, obtaining travel insurance, showing proof of financial responsibility, obtaining Etta’s record of immunizations, getting her student transcript, and paying the fees. Tracy and I provided proof of our lawful residency in France to serve as Etta’s “host family,” which is perfect since we are actual family.

Once approved the Consulate affixed a visa to Etta’s passport granting permission for 11 months of residency for studies in France.

Etta's Student Visa with numbers obscured.
Etta’s Student Visa with numbers obscured.

Etta’s visa allowed her to enter and spend up to five days in transit through the Schengen Area to reach France. In Etta’s case she, her mom, and Tracy entered Europe at Copenhagen, then took a flight to Barcelona with an overnight stop, then finally arrived by bus to Argelès-sur-Mer in France over two days travel.

Once in France Etta is required to contact OFII (L’Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration – the French Office of Immigration and Integration) to validate her visa with an interview, medical exam, and the addition of a Vignette sticker in her passport to serve as her Carte de Séjour (residency permit.)

The
The “Vignette” sticker that takes the place of a Carte de Sejour for the first year of residency.

Tracy and I are familiar with this process because we completed our OFII medical exams and Vignette validation in May 2013 (OFII Medical Exam and Titre de Séjour) when OFII attempted to make Tracy an Australian . . .  but that is a whole different story.

Along with her visa, the consulate gave Etta and her parents a notification form, a Demande d’Attestation OFII, that she is required to complete and mail to the regional OFII office having jurisdiction over Etta’s new residence after her arrival in France. This form includes a bar code that connects to Etta’s account set up when she received her temporary visa. Small snag: the form was safely in a file folder in Reno. But the simple fix was when Etta’s mom returned back to the US, she would scan and e-mail the form to use.  The miracle of modern communication technology.

The e-mail arrived with the Demande d’Attestation OFII with English language direction to mail the completed form to the OFII office in Montpellier along with photocopies of Etta’s information page from her passport, her visa, and her entry stamp. All completed the form was off in the mail and we should receive a letter back from OFII with an appointment date to go visit Montpellier within 90 days.

“Demande d’Attestation OFII” form and supporting documents ready to be mailed

Etta’s “Grand Tour”

Morning coffee and hot chocolate at the beach.

Definition of “Grand Tour”

  1. 1:  an extended tour of the Continent that was formerly a usual part of the education of young British gentlemen

  2. 2:  an extensive and usually educational tour

2017 has some exciting changes for Tracy and me. Our niece, Etta-Kimiyo, will be living with us in France while she is finishing her high school work online. Her student visa was approved through December 13, 2017 by the Consulate General of France in San Francisco. Etta’s parents want Etta to experience Europe with us and for Etta to enrich and expand her education with living abroad. We get the wonderful opportunity to share the history and culture that we have experienced over the last four years and to to make new adventures with Etta.

Tracy and Etta on the municipal bus in Perpignan, France.
Tracy and Etta on the municipal bus in Perpignan, France.

Etta is joining us in our adopted home in Argeles-sur-Mer in the PyrénéesOrientales Department located in Southern France on the Mediterranean Sea and adjacent to the Northern border of Spain. Etta will experience the French, Spanish, and Catalan influences on the local history, culture, and food. The Côte Vermeille and PyrénéesOrientales area where we live is also still known as Catalunya Nord because it was ceded to France by Spain with the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659In fact, there is recent controversy with the greater region being renamed in 2016 Occitanie by the Conseil d’État (when the former French regions Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées were combined) and not named Occitanie Pays Catalan.

We are planning to make use of the flexibility of Etta’s online classes to travel and explore France and Europe with Etta as much as possible, but with school work always remaining the first priority. Tracy has become an expert at “fast and light” discount travel. Potential learning adventures to enrich Etta’s studies that are located in the immediate region include viewing the 17,000 year old cave paintings in Lascaux; seeing the ancient Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard; walking the medieval walled fortress of Cité de Carcassonne; exploring Collioure, the inspiration to Matisse and the Fauvist art movement; the local memorials to the Retiradathe 100,000 refugees of Spanish Republicans fleeing from the Spanish Civil War; or a tour of the Airbus factory and seeing commercial aircraft manufactured in Toulouse. All of these are a quick train or bus ride away. Perfectly timed for Etta’s arrival is the French national train system, SNCF, has just announced a new “Happy Card” discount promotion with unlimited rail travel on high speed TGV and Intercité trains for 16-27-year-olds at just €79 a month.

Etta, Tracy, and Trina (Etta's mom, Tracy's sister) visiting Collioure after Etta's arrival to France.
Etta, Tracy, and Trina (Etta’s mom, Tracy’s sister) visiting nearby Collioure after Etta’s arrival to France.

Of course, Tracy and I are not “trust fund babies with unlimited platinum credit cards” who never stop traveling. We are just everyday people retired from public service with middle-class sized fixed pensions. We live a fairly simple, minimalist life. So for Etta there will be the mundane “real life” of school work, shopping, dog walking, cooking, and laundry with us. But the mundane can be fun with a flexible school schedule that you decide yourself how to schedule; the shopping is at an open air market at the village center; dog walking is along the promenade beside a Mediterranean beach; cooking is with fresh, seasonal, local food; all with frequent breaks along the way to enjoy a pain au chocolat and chocolat chaud at a cafe or swim in the sea. Oh, and laundry . . .  well, laundry is just laundry anywhere in the world, but the Laundromat is a great place to start reading a new book or enjoy music.

There is a bit of a culture shift for Etta. She is sharing with us a small apartment with a micro-kitchen. We do not have a car. We do not have a television. We do not have a dishwasher.We do not have a washing machine. The nearest movie theatre with English language films is in Perpignan. We walk 2 km for morning coffee. We call it “living like a couple of college students.” But we do have great sunrises, the Mediterranean Sea 50 meters aways, palm trees, 7 kilometers of white sand beach, friendly neighbors, bicycles, two spoiled dogs, a beautiful village, an open air market, French pastries, a €1 bus system, and amazing nature and history surrounding us.

Etta working on her on-line high school course work.
Etta working on her on-line high school course work.

Etta’s school curriculum includes studying the French language, I fully expect her to be speaking French better than me in a very short time. She will certainly get a chance for practice.

We are certainly looking for to our shared adventures together.

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part II)

Some passport photo over about 40 years.

I am no longer “The Man Without a Country,” or at least I am no longer the man without a passport. My new passport arrived and I can again prove my home country.

alanpassport2017blurred
“Blurred” Passport

Three weeks to the day after mailing my passport renewal application (including my previous passport) to the US Consulate in Marseille, my new passport booklet arrived along with my cancelled previous passport. That was an impressively fast turn-around considering  the Christmas and New Years Day holidays were in the middle of the renewal processing. The US State Department’s web site advises that passport renewals generally take four to six weeks to process, although they proudly (and justly in my case) say they can frequently provide faster returns. I have to complement the Marseille Consulate for great service!

chronopost-package
Chronopost Package from US Consulate-Marseille

I was hoping to receive the upgraded, redesigned 2017 passport with its new polycarbonate page that is meant to protect the embedded and newly machine-readable information chip. I have a tendency to clumsily damage things, especially items I frequently carry. The current US passport’s RFID chip is somewhat fragile and subject to mechanical and water damage.  And, of course,  I just wanted to be one of the first with the “latest thing.” The new-style passports were originally scheduled to be released in July 2016, but apparently either the redesigned format isn’t ready yet or the State Department is exhausting the last of their 2007-2016 edition passport blanks. The new-style passports are now scheduled to be issued the end of 2017 or early 2018.

But staying with the current passport design allowed me to request the free expanded version with 52 pages (43 for visas) in place of the standard 28 (17 for visas.) Normally it takes an overseas news correspondent to fill an extended passport, but it’s a big world and I’m very motivated to see as much of it as I can until this passport expires in 2026.

Starting in 2016, the US joined the rest of the world with no longer issuing additional pages to its passports and the upcoming 2017 passports will be limited to 28 pages. When a passport is now full of stamps and visas, the holder has to get it replaced. Too few passport pages can rapidly become a problem with frequent travelers because many immigration officers stamp passports on random pages and with the least economical use of space. Some countries require two to six blank pages, often requiring adjacent blank pages, be available in a passport for affixing their visas. Sometimes entry stamp are required to be stamped on the page opposite the visa. (Tracy needed to request an immigration officer re-stamp her entry in her passport on the appropriate page opposite her French visa.)

I am anxious to see the redesign of the new-style 2017 passport with its all-new internal artwork that will feature “intricate engravings and inks” using microprinting, color-shifting inks, and ultraviolet watermarks meant to deter counterfeiting. Perhaps Tracy will receive one of these updated passports when she renews for 2019. (Tracy, the retired graphic artist, is a big fan of the striking Norwegian passport‘s design.)

“Remember when it was the rare American who had a passport? In 2013, 117.4 million Americans had passports; in 1989, that number was 7.3 million”

As expected, my renewed passport card was not included in the package. The card takes longer to manufacture than the traditional booklet and should arrive in a few more weeks.  While the passport card is NOT valid for European travel, I wanted it as a supporting US citizenship document. I also lack a REAL ID Act “gold star” approved US drivers license because I last renewed my drivers license by mail while living overseas. The REAL ID Act’s final deadline for full enforcement is still a “moving target”with frequent extensions. A passport card is an approved REAL ID document for future domestic US air travel without having to carry my passport booklet.

Some passport photo over about 40 years.
Some passport photos through the years.

So now with a valid passport in my hands, I am no longer “running barefoot” through Europe without US travel credentials. While I don’t actually carry my passport on a daily basis while living abroad, just having my passport in my possession grants me peace of mind and my ability to travel internationally again.

I also have the challenge of a brand new passport with lots of blank pages to start filling up.

Related Post:  RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (Part I)

RENEWING A US PASSPORT WHILE LIVING IN FRANCE (PART III)

New Year Good Luck: Saucisse et Lentilles

Growing up I heard the southern America folk tradition that eating black eye peas on New Year Day would grant good luck and prosperity in the coming year. We often had black eye peas with bacon on New Year Day. The superstition goes back to the mid-1800s in the US.

The idea that black eyed peas are lucky dates back to the Civil War. Northern troops considered the peas to be suitable only for animals so they were one of the few edible things left behind by raiding soldiers. The “lucky” peas made their way to Southern tables, especially those of Southern slaves who celebrated emancipation as ordered by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.

In France (along with Italy), there is a similar tradition of eating saucisse et lentilles (sausages and lentils) on New Year Day for good luck. I especially like saucisse et lentilles made with Saucisse de Toulouse and green lentils du Puy (which are sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s caviar” because of their flavor.)

The lentils are symbolic of money and prosperity because they’re round like coins.  The pork in the soup is also symbolic of prosperity (traditionally of having food on the table all year long).

I like the idea of matching, but independently created folk traditions that transverse cultural and national boundaries. So, of course, for my New Year Day lunch I enjoyed a bowl of saucisse et lentilles. Any good luck resulting in 2017 would be welcomed, but you can’t go wrong with a delicious, steaming bowl of saucisse et lentilles on a chilly January day or on any day for that matter.

 Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

.

Saucisse et lentilles
Saucisse et lentilles

Premier Bain de l’Année 2017

It’s January 1, 2017 and my New Year resolution is to be far more consistent posting to our blog. So my first post of 2017 is its first micro-adventure:  the Premier Bain de l’Année (also called the Bain du Nouvel An), the first swim in the sea of the new year.  This is an annual event in Argelès-sur-Mer taking place at the central Plagd’Argelès-sur-Mer (Argelès beach) adjacent to the Esplanade Charles Trenet.

Premier Bain de l’Année poster 2017
Premier Bain de l’Année poster 2017

With the overcast morning’s air temperature at 11°C / 51°F and the Mediterranean Sea’s temperature at 14°C / 57°F, the swimmers and their supporters gathered at the beach as colorful traditional Catalan fishing boats (called “barques” in French or “llaguts” in Catalan) arrived to assist the event. At 10:00 a.m. the swimmers started to disrobe to their swimsuits while their supporters kept bags of dry clothes and towels for the swimmer’s return.

At 10:30 a.m. there was a series of whistle blasts and the swimmers ran to the water. Many swimmers looked festive wearing Santa Claus hats, outrageous wigs, and costumes.  One female swimmer wore a sparkling ballerina’s tutu.

No, I did not join the swimmers this year. The dogs and I offered our support and admiration from dry land. Perhaps next year . . . NOT.

The swimmers had a spectacular time. They swam, splashed, posed for photos, and there was a spontaneous group sing-along with two dozen hard-core swimmers long after most participants had returned to shore. There were swimmers of every size and age with all having tremendous fun. It was difficult to estimate the size of the event, but my guess is there was 50 to 75 swimmers with 200 supporters cheering them on from shore.

As the swimmers eventually became too chilled to continue, their supporters would meet them at the water’s edge with warm towels. There were free hot drinks and certificates of bravery waiting for the swimmers back at the Esplanade.

A fun, hometown event to start 2017.

Happy New Year!

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