Absentee Voting Guide

Request Your Absentee Ballot Today If You Are Overseas

AFSA and the foreign affairs agencies urge overseas employees and their voting-age dependents to be proactive in obtaining and casting their absentee ballots during the 2018 election cycle. Primary, special and run-off elections occur throughout the year. The general election is scheduled for November 6, 2018. (Note that there are also some off-year elections in 2017.)

Contact Your Voting Assistance Officer

Virtually every embassy and consulate has a Voting Assistance Officer in the consular section who can provide you with a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) for registering and requesting an absentee ballot, as well as state-by-state requirements and voting procedures. Forms and information are also available on the Internet at http://www.fvap.gov.

Completing the FPCA

Please follow carefully your state’s instructions when filling out and submitting your absentee ballot request. For example, some states require that the form be notarized or witnessed; others require you to include your passport number or other identifying information. You are eligible to use the FPCA, and to vote from abroad, because you are an overseas citizen covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). List your actual overseas address on the FPCA. If you use another address to receive mail, list that also.

Sending In Your FPCA

You can send the completed FPCA to your local election officials via pouch, APO/FPO/DPO, host country international mail, or express courier service. Many states allow submission of the FPCA by fax, and a few now allow scanning and e-mailing, but they require that you subsequently send in the original by mail. The hard copy of the FPCA available from your Voting Assistance Officer is postage paid, and may be sent via pouch or APO/FPO/DPO without additional postage. Sending the FPCA via the host country postal service will require local postage. Check with express mail services for special services and rates available to U.S. voters overseas. The FPCA available on line is not postage paid, and requires an envelope and postage for all of the above-listed mail delivery options.

Absentee voters should send in their FPCAs as early as possible. States mail or fax out ballots between 30 to 60 days before an election. To allow time for receipt and timely return of voted ballots, and to qualify for an emergency ballot, if necessary, overseas voters should make every effort to get the FPCA to local election officials at least 30 days prior to the date of an election.

Returning Your Voted Ballot

Ballot receipt deadlines vary from state to state. Check with your Voting Assistance Officer or review on-line information for your state's ballot receipt deadline.

Voters who choose to return voted ballots via pouch or APO/FPO/DPO should plan on about three weeks transit time. This includes wait time at post, transit to the U.S., processing, and onward delivery via the U.S. postal system. Before using a different method to return your voted ballot (for example, sending it by express mail), check to make sure that method will provide a postmark (or date and place stamp), especially if your state/territory accepts absentee ballots received after close of polls on election day but requires an overseas postmark showing you mailed the ballot before election day. Your mail room at post can add place and date stamps to ballot return envelopes.

What To Do If You Don't Receive A Ballot

No overseas voter should be able to say "I couldn't vote because my ballot didn't arrive in time." There is an emergency ballot - the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) - that is available through your Voting Assistance Officer. It is also available on-line at http://www.fvap.gov. It is generally used to allow you to vote for candidates for Federal offices (President, Vice President, Senator, Representative), but some states now allow its use for state or local offices. Check with your Voting Assistance Officer for eligibility requirements. A voter who receives his/her blank state ballot after submitting an FWAB should complete and return the state ballot as quickly as possible to meet his/her state ballot receipt deadline.

State Special Write-In Absentee Ballots

Several states provide a special ballot to overseas voters who live in remote locations and who know well before the election that they will be unable to use the state's regular absentee voting procedure due to poor mail service. These ballots are available between 45 and 180 days in advance of an election, and generally include federal, state and local offices. Instructions are available on-line or through your post's Voting Assistance Officer.

Notifying Your Local Election Officials About An Address or Name Change

Use the FPCA to communicate with your election officials about other issues, such as a change of name or change of address. If you plan to transfer during the year, use the FPCA (Section 6) to notify your local election officials of any change. For example, tell them you are moving from Dili to Niamey, and want ballots sent to Dili through July 2018. You will send in a new FPCA with your new address once you arrive in Niamey.

For More Information

See the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website at http://www.fvap.gov. Check the websites of non-partisan groups, such as the League of Women Voters and AARP, as well as websites run by local and national media, for information about the candidates' positions, voting records, and other ballot initiatives. Use an Internet search engine to locate a telephone number or email address of your local election officials if you need to communicate with them directly. Key enter "(your city/county) (your state) elections."