Overseas at Election Time? How to Vote by Absentee Ballot

This year’s raucous presidential race is garnering global attention as it dominates headlines and stirs passionate debate in the U.S. and other parts of the world. If you’re an American expatriate and you want to have a say in who becomes our 45th president, it’s important to remember that being abroad doesn’t exclude you from voting for the candidate of your choice. 

As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to participate in the election as an absentee voter, and it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to cast your ballot while overseas. The clock is ticking, however, with just three months until Election Day on Nov. 8, so there’s no time like the present to make sure you have everything in order. 

Following is a brief guide on the steps to follow when voting via absentee ballot: 

  1. Check your registration. Most states now have websites where you can verify if you are registered to vote. If you’re unsure of your registration status, check the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s directory of state voter registration verification websites. For voting purposes, your state of legal residence is the state where you resided immediately before leaving the U.S., even if you no longer own or rent property or intend to return there in the future.
  2. Request a ballot. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has simplified the process of overseas voting by creating a single form you can use to register to vote and request an absentee ballot. The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) can be filled out online or by hand, and there is an online assistant to help guide you. Once you’ve completed the form, you must send it to your state’s election office either via e-mail or regular mail.
    1. Complete your ballot. When your absentee ballot arrives, fill it out and send it to your state’s election office. Make sure you sign the enclosed affidavit or envelope as required by your state. For this year’s presidential election, be sure to send your ballot back by Oct. 15.

    You should note that election officials are required to send your absentee ballot 45 days before an election. If for some reason you do not receive your absentee ballot from your state in time to return it to your election official to participate in the election, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB serves as a backup that can be used in all states for voting in federal elections. 

    If you receive your state absentee ballot after submitting the FWAB, vote and return it as well. If both your state ballot and your FWAB are received by the deadline, only one will be counted.

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