Every six years French municipal elections are held to choose the local counselors who form the government that then elects the city’s mayor. Any European Union citizen residing in that town can cast a ballot but to vote for the country’s president you need an upgrade to being a full-fledged French citizen. After now living in Carcassonne for almost five years we feel both European and French but we won’t qualify to take that step towards naturalization until we’ve completed that fifth year. In the meantime, we haven’t been totally excluded from voicing our opinion on local issues and just last week we saw the results of one of those votes and we even picked a winner—in fact, four winners!
For governing purposes, France is divided into 101 departments that you might think of as counties if this country were one huge state. To give the residents of our department a say in how taxes are spent, we have a Participative Budget that allows individuals or groups the chance to propose projects that will benefit the general public. This year there were 259 suggestions with each voter getting to select their top 4 leading to the selection of 31 ideas that will be funded. At least a third of these winners will have a direct positive impact on the environment including one right in our own neighborhood. Within the coming year we should see cleaner beaches and waterways, more natural areas for wildlife protection, and even squirrel “footbridges” to allow safe passage near busy roadways. The projects that caught our eye were:
- More Bats, Less Pesticide
- A recycle center for large home appliances
- Ethical treatment of farm animals
- Bird and bat house installation on the streets near us
Within the last two weeks we also saw the results from another election in which we participated. Since Bill and I maintain our US citizenship, we have the responsibility to pay income taxes to Uncle Sam and the privilege of voting in local, state, and national elections. We’ve been using the IRS website for years to take care of that annual April 15 obligation and now the Internet makes it almost as convenient to voice our opinion in politics from overseas. The Supervisor of Elections for the county where we’re registered sends us an email with an absentee ballot attached that we print out and mail back via the postal service. Once it’s been received in the Board of Elections office we get a confirmation email so that we can be confident that our vote will count. Although we made our initial absentee request via our county’s website, there are other sites to achieve this including the US Federal Voting Assistance Program site: https://www.fvap.gov/