Voting from Overseas
Voting in 2012 is Easier than Ever Before
Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on your state or county, you can get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download To start, go to FVAP.gov to fill out a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Don't delay. Do it today! Include your email address on the form. If your state delivers ballots electronically by fax only, be sure to include your fax number. If you request electronic delivery and include your email address or fax number, you'll receive your blank ballot 45 days before the election. Most states now have voter registration verification websites, and many offer a means of tracking the progress of your voted ballot.
IMPORTANT NOTE Everyone who wants to vote in 2012 should send in a new FPCA this year.
See below for additional information on:
- Absentee Voting Basics
- Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
- Receiving your Blank Absentee Ballot
- Voting and Returning Your Ballot
- Using an Emergency Write-In Ballot
- Voting Eligibility
- Role of Local Election Officials
- Verifying Your Registration
- Be an Educated Voter
- Voting and Taxes
Absentee Voting Basics
Absentee voting is a simple four or five step process.
- Every year, you send in a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials
- They confirm your eligibility to vote, and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots for elections held that year
- They send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail
- You complete the ballot and send it back so it arrives before the ballot receipt deadline
- If your ballot fails to reach you 30 days before the election, use the emergency Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote
Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
To vote from abroad, you have to register to vote with local election officials in your state of legal (voting) residence, AND every year you have to ask to receive absentee ballots. You can use one form to do both - the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Submit a new FPCA every time you move, change your address, change your email, or change your name.
To complete and address the form, go to either the Federal Voting Assistance Program or the Overseas Vote Foundation website, where an on-line assistant walks you through the process. You can also pick up an FPCA and a copy of your state's requirements from any U.S. embassy or consulate, or from many overseas U.S. citizen civic or political groups.
Your state may allow you to send in your FPCA via mail, fax, or email. (See Voting and Returning Your Ballot below for options.) Consult the online FVAP Voting Assistance Guide for your state's current instructions. If you need help completing or submitting the form, contact the voting assistance officer at the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Receiving Your Blank Absentee Ballot
Forty-five days before the November general elections, your state will either send your blank ballot to you electronically, or mail it to the address you provided on your FPCA.
The timeframe for sending out ballots for other elections may be shorter. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections, or abbreviated ballots for elections for federal offices only.
Voting and Returning Your Ballot
Complete your ballot carefully and legibly, and return it to your local election officials before your state's ballot receipt deadline. Send it back as early as possible.
Overseas voters have a number of options for returning voted ballots:
- Local mail: If you have good mail service to the United States, put your ballot in the mail with appropriate international postage.
- U.S. Embassy Pouch/APO/FPO: You can drop off your ballot request or voted ballot at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for return to the United States, or you can have someone drop it off for you, It must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient postage or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP web site.Contact the voting assistance officer or visit the Embassy website for specific instructions.
- Fax, Email, or Internet: A number of states now allow the electronic return of voted ballots. Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Voting Assistance Guide for electronic transmission options for your state.
- Express Courier Service: If time is short or local mail is unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS. NOTE: FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
Using an Emergency Write-in Ballot
Don't be a passive voter and wait for a ballot that may not reach you in time. If you followed all the right steps but still haven't received your ballot 30 days before the election, you should complete and submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Contact the Voting Assistance Officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for help, or visit FVAP.gov to complete the FWAB using their online wizard. Write in the candidates of your choice, and send it to your local election official. If your regular absentee ballot arrives later, fill it out and send it back too. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot doesn't reach your local election officials by your state's deadline. Following this procedure will not invalidate your vote or result in two votes being cast.
Almost all U.S. citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote absentee for candidates for federal offices in U.S. primary and general elections. In addition, some states allow overseas citizens to vote for candidates for state and local offices, as well as for state and local referendums. For information regarding your specific state, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Voting Assistance Guide or the Overseas Vote Foundation website. The Overseas Vote Foundation is a non-partisan voter advocacy organization.
For voting purposes, your state of legal residence is generally the state wherein you resided immediately before leaving the United States, even if you no longer own or rent property or intend to return there in the future. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia specifically allow U.S. citizens who have never resided in the United States to register where a parent would be eligible to vote. Direct your questions about eligibility to your local election officials.
Role of Local Election Officials
All elections in the United States are run at the state and local level. If local election officials have questions about your form, they'll contact you. It's smart to send in your form early (ideally, at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least forty-five days before the election) to provide time to process your request and resolve any problems. Once approved, your name will be put on a list of voters to receive absentee ballots.
Verifying Your Registration
States are now required to have websites where you can verify your registration. If you are unsure of your voter registration status, or want to confirm that local officials have received and approved your registration, check the FVAP website for a directory of state voter registration verification websites. You can also call or write your local election officials directly.
Be an Educated Voter
Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues you care about.
Voting and Taxes
Voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect your federal or state tax liability. Voting for candidates for state or local offices could affect your state tax liability. Consult legal counsel if you have questions.