Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad
VOTING IS NOW EASIER THAN EVER BEFORE
U.S. citizens can receive an absentee ballot by email, fax, or internet download, depending on the state they are eligible to vote in.
New absentee voting laws went into effect in 2012. You will no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request. All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year if they wish to vote from abroad. States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election. No matter what state you vote in, you can now ask your local election officials to provide your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state). You can now also confirm your registration and ballot delivery on-line. Be sure to include your email address on the form to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option. This is the fastest and most reliable way to receive your ballot on time, and we strongly recommend every overseas voter take advantage of it. Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website: www.FVAP.gov
IMPORTANT NOTE: States are no longer required to automatically send ballots to voters for an entire election cycle so everyone who wants to vote in U.S. elections from overseas should send in a new Federal Post Card Application in January of each year.
U.S. citizens abroad must submit a new FPCA each year to vote in U.S. elections. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample 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.
Most U.S. citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote absentee for federal office candidates in U.S. primary and general elections. In addition, some states allow overseas citizens to vote for state and local office candidates and referendums. For information about your state, see the Voting Assistance Guide.
In some states, U.S. citizens who are 18 years or older and were born abroad but who have never resided in the United States are eligible to vote absentee. Direct your questions about eligibility to local election officials.
Absentee Voting Basics
Absentee voting is a simple two-step process:
- Each year, submit a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials. They will:
- Confirm your eligibility to vote and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots for any elections held that calendar year.
- Send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
- Complete and return the ballot so it arrives before your state’s ballot return deadline. OR
- If you have not received your blank ballot 30 days before an election, use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote.
IMPORTANT: U.S. citizens abroad must submit a new FPCA each year to vote in U.S. elections. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample 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.
Registration/Absentee Ballot Request
To vote from abroad, you must register with local election officials in your state of voting residence AND request an absentee ballot. You can use the FPCA to do both. Submit a new FPCA early each year, every time you move, and whenever you change your address, email, or name.
Start at the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website, where an online assistant walks you through the process. You can also request an FPCA and copy of your state’s requirements from us, please send an email including your name, address and voting state to: VoteBern@state.gov .
You can always return your FPCA by mail. In addition, most states allow you to send in your FPCA by fax or email. Consult the online Voting Assistance Guide for your state’s current instructions.
Receiving Your Blank Absentee Ballot
Forty-five days before November general elections, your state will send you a blank ballot either electronically or via mail at the address you provided on your FPCA.
Ballots will generally be mailed out 30 days before primary, special, and run-off elections. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections or abbreviated ballots for federal office elections only
Voting and Returning Your Ballot
Complete your ballot carefully, legibly, and as early as possible. Make sure to return it to local election officials in time to meet your state’s deadline.
Overseas voters have a number of options for returning completed ballots:
- Local mail – If you have a reliable mail service to the United States, put your ballot in the mail with appropriate international postage.
- U.S. Embassy Diplomatic Pouch – Mail your ballot request FPCA or completed ballot placed into a second envelope to: U.S. Embassy Bern, CONS/ACS/Voting, P.O. Box, 3001 Bern, Switzerland for return to the United States. It must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient U.S. postage, or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP website.
- Fax, Email, or Internet – Some states permit electronic transmission of completed ballots. Consult the Voting Assistance Guide for options in your state.
- Express Courier Service – If time is short or local mail unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS at your own expense. NOTE: FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
Using an Emergency Write-in Ballot
If you completed all required steps but have not received your ballot 30 days before an election, submit a completed Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Visit the FVAP website to complete an FWAB using the online assistant. Write in the candidates of your choice, then print, sign, and send the FWAB to your local election officials. If your regular absentee ballot arrives after submitting a FWAB, you should still complete and return it. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot does not reach local election officials by your state’s deadline. This will not invalidate your vote or result in casting two votes.
Verifying Your Registration
Most states have websites to verify voter registration. If you are unsure of your 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 write, email, or call local election officials directly.
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.