Did you know that you can vote in U.S. elections while living abroad? All you need to do is request an absentee ballot. There is still time to request your ballot before this year’s presidential election on November 3.
First Steps – Register to Vote, Update Your Voter Registration, and Request Your Absentee Ballot
If you have voted in a previous election, you’re most likely still registered to vote in the same state and district, but you might want to update your information or change the way you receive your ballot.
According to the U.S. Embassy, all U.S. states have procedures to send ballots electronically to absentee voters. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you can get your ballot by email, fax, or the Internet.
Each state has its own process for registering to vote or verifying voter registration. You can do this through the Secretary of State website in most states.
It is important to note that being registered to vote in the last state you lived in does not automatically make you a tax resident of that state. Voter registration is one criterion that can be used to determine residency, but it is not the only consideration. If you have questions about your state of residency, please contact BNC Tax for a consultation.
Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP)
Some states require voters to fill out a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) in order to register to vote.
If your state requires the FPCA, you can fill it out online, print a U.S. postage-paid envelope, and send it to your local election officials through international mail or a professional courier service.
The Embassy and the State Department recommend that U.S. citizens living abroad complete the FPCA every year to keep your information current. This will ensure that you receive your absentee ballot for all federal elections within that calendar year, and this will also ensure that your contact information is up-to-date with your election office.
You can request your ballot to be delivered to you by postal mail, fax or email. If you request electronic delivery and include your email address or fax number, you will receive your blank ballot 45 days before general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices.
Many states now offer a way to track the status of your ballot.
Another option – Vote as a backup using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
You can vote with the backup ballot if you won’t receive your regular ballot in time to send it back before the election.
You can find the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) on the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website. Click “see your options” at the bottom of the screen as seen in the screenshot below, or click this link.
On that page, you can download the write-in ballot, fill it out and print it. You’ll need to sign it and mail it via postal mail to the election office in the jurisdiction in which you are registered to vote.
You can download and print an envelope that has the address of your election office from this site, as well. Just run a blank envelope through your printer.
If you mail the envelope from inside the United States, the postage is free because it’s official election mail. If you mail the envelope from outside of the United States, you need to add postage for international mailing.
If you are voting by postal mail, make sure you know how long your local post takes to deliver mail to the United States, and make sure to mail your ballot early enough! That may mean using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) and mailing it as soon as possible.
If you plan to vote electronically, make sure you understand whether you can vote by fax, email or Internet, and what you need to do ahead of Election Day.
As a U.S. citizen, voting is your right, even if you live abroad. Your vote is important. Make your voice count!