Regardless of which state you’ve registered to vote, this year promises to be a year where every vote matters. But what if you happen to be away from home during the election season?
No need to sacrifice democratic duty for living and wandering the world, you can have it all. Thanks to advances in technology, most U.S. states allow for overseas voting. You may not get the coveted “I voted!” sticker, but at least you can make a difference and get your voice heard even while away.
Military personnel stationed overseas have a bit of a different system (registering and receiving ballots where they are stationed), but ordinary citizens who reside overseas are able to vote, as well, as per The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
In general, those who are eligible to vote absentee when overseas are:
-an active duty member of the Uniformed Services or Merchant Marine absent from your voting residence.
-an eligible spouse or family member of an active duty member of the Uniformed Services or Merchant Marine.
-a U.S. citizen residing outside the country (even if you have never resided in the U.S). (Basically, everyone else)
Step zero, if you have not registered to vote (or are turning 18 overseas), the Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) are available to download from www.fvap.gov.
First, check out FVAP for information on each individual state. They promote using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process in order to receive a ballot overseas for federal elections for one year. However, if you have not done this, don’t panic, you are, in most cases, still able to vote if you haven’t registered. The website includes federal election deadlines for registration, ballot request, and ballot return, for state, presidential primary, and general elections. Deadlines are very soon for registration so get those applications filled out (unless your primary has already taken place, in which case you can register for the general election now).
Second, visit the website of your nearest U.S. embassy. In some cases, they are able to mail your ballots back for you via diplomatic pouch. This can apply if, for example, you took your ballot with you overseas or had someone mail it to you. The process of sending it back might be more trustworthy, cheaper, and faster than regular post. The State Department outlines what they can do for voters, and has valuable information for first time overseas voters.
Vote From Abroad has a great list of deadlines and can walk you through the process for first time voters, and those voting absentee for the first time: https://www.votefromabroad.org/
Overseas Vote can help with voting in future elections. Voters can create a profile on their website and can request an emergency the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot if they did not submit the overseas registration in time to receive a physical ballot. www.overseasvote.org