No response from PopVox, Second Attempt

Submitted here

————————————————————

Dear PopVox,

I wrote to you and didn’t get a response, so I’m writing again.  I’m an American living abroad and I registered to vote in a different district.  How can I update this in your system?

Regards,

[ExpatAmi]

————————————————————

PopVox responded this time and explained how such is done: “You can change your address (which will change your district) the next time you decide to weigh in on a bill. After you have written your comment you will see an illustration of an envelope. Under the return address on the top left of the envelope you should see a link labeled “change address”. Click the link and change your profile information, then click save.”

Advertisements

Asked Federal Trade Commission if Americans Abroad are being excluded from Sweepstakes

Since neither the Obama nor the Romney team responded in my inquiry concerning sweepstakes and citizens abroad, I called  1-877-FTC-HELP seeking more information.  To me, it is unclear if Americans abroad are included or excluded with the following text:

PROMOTION OPEN ONLY TO INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES CITIZENS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT U.S. RESIDENTS WHO ARE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE FIFTY (50) UNITED STATES, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND PUERTO RICO, AND OVER THE AGE OF 18 (OR THE AGE OF MAJORITY UNDER APPLICABLE LAW
http://www.barackobama.com/last-dinner-with-barack/rules

The Federal Trade Commission is supposed to “prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers; to enhance informed consumer choice and public understanding of the competitive process; and to accomplish this without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.”

Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission didn’t know if American citizens living abroad are being included or excluded and advised me to continue searching for an answer.  I guess that it is acceptable in America to be deceptive or unfair to Americans living abroad.

Thus, I wrote the National Association of Consumer Advocates the following:

Are Americans abroad included or excluded from sweepstakes?  I contacted the Obama and Romney teams concerning their sweepstakes, but they did not provide an answer, nor did the FTC know if Americans living abroad are included or excluded from Sweepstakes.  How do you understand the following in relation to Americans overseas:

“PROMOTION OPEN ONLY TO INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES CITIZENS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT U.S. RESIDENTS WHO ARE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE FIFTY (50) UNITED STATES, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND PUERTO RICO, AND OVER THE AGE OF 18 (OR THE AGE OF MAJORITY UNDER APPLICABLE LAW)”
http://www.barackobama.com/last-dinner-with-barack/rules

Are Americans Abroad excluded from “Dinner with Barack VI”?

Sent to dinnerwithbarack@barackobama.com

—————————————————————-

Dear Dinner with Barack Team,

The “Dinner with Barack VI” rules state the following:

PROMOTION OPEN ONLY TO INDIVIDUAL UNITED STATES CITIZENS AND LAWFUL PERMANENT U.S. RESIDENTS WHO ARE LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE FIFTY (50) UNITED STATES, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND PUERTO RICO, AND OVER THE AGE OF 18 (OR THE AGE OF MAJORITY UNDER APPLICABLE LAW)

http://www.barackobama.com/last-dinner-with-barack/rules?source=em12_20120915_dwb_disc&utm_medium=email&utm_source=obama&utm_campaign=em12_20120915_dwb_disc&utm_content=Official+Rules&amounts=15|35|50|100|250|500|1000

Does „legal residents of the fifty (50) United States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico“ apply only to permanent U.S. residents, or does it also apply to U.S. citizens? If it applies to citizens, are American citizens living abroad considered to be „legal residents of one of the fifty states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia“?

Regards,

[ExpatAmi]

—————————————————————-

No response

Americans Abroad excluded from “Onboard With Mitt Contest”?

Sent to digital@mittromney.com

—————————————————————————-

Dear Romney for President Digital Team,

The “Onboard With Mitt Contest Rules” state the following:

 The Promotion is open to citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) of the United States who are legal residents of one of the fifty states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia and are at least 18 years of age or the age of majority as determined by state law.
http://www.mittromney.com/rules/onboard-mitt

Does „are legal residents of one of the fifty states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia“ apply only to and permanent residents (green card holders), or does it also apply to citizens? I it applies to citizens, are American citizens living abroad considered to be „legal residents of one of the fifty states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia“?

Regards,

[ExpatAmi]

——————————————————————————–

No response.

On residency, Greenback Expat Tax Services writes:  “If the IRS considers you a resident, you are going to be required to pay taxes on worldwide income“.  On worldwide income, the IRS writes:  “If you are a U.S. citizen… Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.”  So, according to the IRS, a “legal residents of one of the fifty states, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia” includes US citizens who do not live in the fifty states, Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia.  Will the Romney for President Digital Team answer this simple question?

Did you hear the President today?

“Today the President laid out a very different vision, one where everyone—no matter who you are, where you’re from, or how big your bank account is—pitches in together to rebuild the foundations of our country and economy.”
Did you hear the President today?

While this sounds, in theory, to be a noble idea worthy of taking into consideration, it is, in practice, troubled with a number of significant hurdles which need to be overcome.

Around 6.2 million American citizens abroad already pitch in together to rebuild the foundations of the countries and economies where they reside outside of America, as explained in Taxation of Americans Abroad.  Asking them to do the same for two countries and two economies puts a greater burden on them than any other group of people, with the exception of the totalitarian nation of Eritrea.

“Congress could amend the Tax Code to end the discriminatory practice of taxing U.S. citizens with a bona-fide residence abroad. However, this appears highly unlikely—U.S. citizens living abroad have essentially zero influence in Congress.”
100 Year Legacy of Expatriation Due to Taxes

In a totalitarian regime, citizens living abroad have essentially zero influence in Congress. America is likely not defined as being a totalitarian regime, and yet Americans abroad are told that they can’t vote when they attempt to register with their address or documents where they live.  To register, they have to ask someone in the US if they can use their address for that purpose. For example, the Massachusetts Voter Registration Form Request requires a US address.  The same applies to Americans abroad who attempt to get an id card or drivers license, as further explained in “Your are an Invalid Resident!

“Approximately 6 to 7 percent of civilians living abroad voted in the 2008 election.  There is evidence that a large portion of the population was not successful in its attempt to participate. The largest problem for Americans abroad is not having their ballot rejected, but ensuring that their ballot is returned on time.”
Overseas Vote Foundation

Even if they can register to vote, they are told that they can’t vote locally or their vote doesn’t count.  Americans abroad are further compensated with their lack of political representation with an up to 50% slash to their US Social Security benefits through the Windfall Elimination Provision.  If they lose their employment abroad, they will be denied unemployment benefits in the US.

“The U.S. Government does not offer an unemployment insurance plan in which overseas Americans could voluntarily enroll to protect themselves upon their return to the United States.”
American Citizens Abroad

The idea of  being together seems to stop at the border, such as with Medicare, or State Farm which writes:

“Each of the investment products and services referred to on the State Farm Mutual Funds web site is intended to be made available to customers or prospective customers residing in the United States. The customer’s U.S. permanent residence address must be a street address.”
State Farm

Yet, it doesn’t end there.  When Americans apply for some bank accounts abroad or even banking services in the States, they may be rejected or treated differently from other Americans.

“As a direct result of existing and newly proposed U.S. regulations, many U.S. and overseas banks have closed accounts held by U.S. citizens living outside of the U.S., and many banking institutions outside the U.S. now refuse to open any new accounts for Americans. Recently enacted legislation from the Treasury and Congress will only worsen this situation.”
Banking Services Denied to U.S. Citizens Abroad

Of course, there are other issues as well, such as Americans abroad being the target of terrorist attacks responding to US foreign policy.  Americans abroad may also be denied residential tuition rates at US colleges.  We can’t even sign up for an American Sweepstakes, get a credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, buy an app from Barnes & Nobel, watch a video at Amazon or subscribe to Netflix.  Yet, the most serious issue is the excessive government spending on that which does not “rebuild the foundations of our country and economy”:

“Uncle Sam is like the neighborhood wastrel who buys everyone a drink and cosigns everyone’s loans even though he is unemployed. When faced with bankruptcy, he immediately goes down to the bar and buys another round for the road.”
Solving The Debt Crisis: A Military Budget For A Republic

America does not need to be a super power.  Rather, It needs to cut its spending to repay its debts to “rebuild the foundations of our country and economy”.  A 50% slash on Social Security Benefits for all Americans rather than singling out Americans abroad, would qualify under the concept of “pitching in together” and cut spending by $407 billion.  One could even work together more and stop Medicare within the US border too for all Americans, pitching in a few more billion.

Did you hear the President today?  Sadly, I heard no mention of residency-based taxation or even representation for Americans abroad in the House and Senate.  What I did hear appeared to be a collection of bipartisan chatter which stopped in relevance at the border.  Maybe the President should hear Americans today for a change?

The AnnualCreditReport.com website is not currently available at your location.

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that’s yours by law.

Well, that’s great, except that Americans abroad can’t access it:

The AnnualCreditReport.com website is not currently available at your location.
Visit www.ftc.gov to learn how you can request your free U.S. credit report by mail.

Fox News writes:

Every American is entitled to a free report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months. Get yours at AnnualCreditReport.com.

This should be corrected to:
Every American is entitled to a free report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months. Unless you are an American citizen abroad, get yours at AnnualCreditReport.com.

The Expat Sweepstakes Exclusion

Every so often, such as today, I get an email or read an advertisement which states that US citizens can enter a Sweepstakes and possibly win, asking me to sign up and participate with no purchase necessary.  This used to sound cool until I read the small print which excludes American citizens working abroad:

Do not enter this Sweepstakes if you are not, at the time of entry (i) a legal U.S. resident located in the U.S.
http://www.spafinder.com/newsletter/sweeps/sizzling-south-beach-rules.pdf

Well, I’m a legal US resident and a legal US citizen, I guess, but I’m not “in” the US.  Why should I be?  I could be on the moon too, or even Mars!  I suppose that any American representative could explain that one in a jiffy, but I can’t seem to find a single one willing to do so since my address is not “in” the US.

The Sweepstakes “welcoming” letter writes:

You signed up to receive updates and offers about products, services and promotions that may be of interest to you.

Well, if one figures that this might be of interest to me, then is the exclusion necessary?  I doubt that one has to be a rocket scientist to figure that US citizens buy US products and services even when they don’t live in the US.  Is that a crime?

“You are an invalid resident!”

“You are an invalid resident!”, I was told.  I had called a State government office to inquire on my status since I had been denied services by some American companies even though I was a US citizen.  I then learned that I would become a “valid resident” once I got an id card.  Yet, I couldn’t get this id card at the local embassy.  Instead, I was told that I must fly to the US to process the paperwork.  That sounds a bit unusual, but what must be done must be done.  So, the next time that I had a good reason to fly to the US, I purchased a ticket and flew over to a State where I was considered as being a “non-resident” rather than an “invalid resident”.  To become a “valid resident” in the “non-resident” State, I was told that I needed to have a mailing address in that State.  So, I called a mail forwarder and got a mailing address in that State.  I then filled out the Declaration of Domicile using my new address, got it approved and headed down to the voters registration office.  There, I was informed that “you can’t vote from a business address”.  Another employee asked: “How can you live at a business address?”.  I explained to them that I’m an American abroad, that this is currently my only address in  America, and that the address simply forwards my mail to where I live abroad.  They then responded by telling me that they cannot register me to vote since the system won’t allow it and that I would have to come back when I have a different address.  I then explained to them that it could be years before I returned to the States again, that I’m not allowed to do this at the embassy abroad and that I need an id card since American businesses were denying me services without it.  The employee then went to inquire the matter with the supervisor.  The supervisor stated that I had done everything that was required of me and that the clerk would have to override the system and manually enter in my address.  After lots of going back and forth, I finally got registered to vote under the condition that I “do not vote in local elections”, I got the new id card and changed my status to “valid resident” (I think) but in a different State.  The folks at the voters registration seemed rather unhappy about this, but I had no reason or motive to become a “valid resident” in the State where I was defined as being “invalid”, while my new status fits much better in terms of climate, location, politics and long-term planning.

To get an id card, a US representative may spend about $40 for the trolley fare and government fees.  For Americans abroad, the cost may be over $2000 for airfare, hotel, car rental, food and government fees.  Unless US representatives want to get their id cards in China under the same conditions as any other American, one would think that they would fight for embassies or consulates to provide id card services like that done by any other nation other than the US.