According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 38,200 French Americans live in Idaho. Where and how do French citizens living abroad in the U.S. vote in French presidential elections?
While U.S. cities with large populations of French citizens have consulates where citizens go to vote, cities and even states with smaller populations of French Americans, like Idaho, have what are called French Honorary Consuls. Hortense Saget, a lecturer of French in the Department of World Languages, volunteers as the French Honorary Consul of Idaho. The Honorary Consul provides French citizens with a liaison and representative to the French Consul along with notary and passport services, communications and assisting with elections.
In France, citizens vote directly for the candidate they want. Direct representation differs from the U.S. presidential election process with the electoral college. French elections have two rounds of voting. The first round of voting, among candidates from each party, determines the top two candidates who then run in the second round of voting. To win an election in France, a candidate must receive 51% of the votes.
French citizens in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana must travel to Salt Lake City to vote at the French Consulate. Honorary Consuls like Saget, who serves as assessor for this election, volunteer to run the elections.
“It takes a big sense of citizenship to get to Salt Lake City to vote. Unfortunately, not everybody can do that for professional, work or financial reasons,” says Saget. She explains that French citizens can vote via proxy, known as une procuration, essentially appointing someone to vote for you. “Obviously it has to be a trusted friend or somebody you know will vote based on your preference.”
“I was going to go vote anyway so I said I could help. I’m curious about the process of the election so I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how it all works and what it takes to organize it,” Saget adds. “And also to meet some French people that I have not met yet. It’s an important time for the elections with the conflict in Ukraine and everything that’s going on in Europe. I guess it’s kind of my duty.”
Saget traveled to Salt Lake City for the first round of voting on April 10 among 12 candidates. Saget will return there to assist with the second round of elections between the incumbent Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.