Absentee Voting Information
Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad
VOTING IS NOW EASIER THAN EVER BEFORE:
Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download. To start, go to http://www.fvap.gov/ to complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), print and sign the form then return it to your local election office in the United States. We recommend overseas U.S. citizens get in the habit of completing FPCAs each January. You should include your email address on the form so it's easier for your election officials to reach you if there is a problem. 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 general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices. Most states now have voter registration verification websites, and many offer a means of tracking the status of your registration and ballot.
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.
See below for additional information on:
Absentee voting is a simple 2 step process.
1. 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 any elections held that calendar year.
- They send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
2. 2(a). You complete the ballot and send it back so it arrives before your state's ballot return deadline.
2(b). Or, if you haven't received your blank ballot 30 days before an election, don't wait any longer; use the emergency Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote.
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 request to receive absentee ballots. You can use one form to do both - the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). Submit a new FPCA in January of each year, 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 U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, or from many overseas U.S. citizen civic or political groups.
You can always return your FPCA by mail. In addition, most states allow you to send in your FPCA by fax or email. (See Voting and Returning Your Ballot section below). 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.
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.
Ballots are generally mailed out only 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 elections for federal offices only.
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 FVAP 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.
If you make a timely application for an absentee ballot for a general federal election but do not receive the ballot from your state in time, you may use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). This emergency Write-in Ballot is available on-line. You must register to vote using the FPCA and request an absentee ballot by your state's deadline - usually 30 days before the election - to be eligible to use the FWAB. Please note that the FWAB is only valid for use in federal, not state or local, office.
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 FVAP 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 residenceis 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. 29 states and the District of Columbia specifically address this issue, and allow U.S. citizens of voting age who have never resided in the U.S. to use their parents’ residence as their residence for voter registration and voting purposes – even if the residence no longer exists as a valid address. The other states don’t specifically mention this option, but local election officials in those states may weigh a number of factors in deciding whether to accept a registration. Direct your questions about eligibility to your 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.
You can check to see if you are registered to vote by going to the FVAP links page. Once on that page scroll down to "State Voter Registration Verification Website." Here you will choose the State you vote in, then be redirected to that State's registration verification page. You can always contact your local election official or FVAP directly if you have any additional questions or concerns.
Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues you care about.
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.
If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact Embassy Tallinn Voting Assistance Officer at +372 668-8128, or ACSTallinn@state.gov.
Updated March 2014
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