Absentee voting overview

by Federal Voting Assistance Program

Overseas citizen voters face a specific set of voting challenges, but we provide information and resources so you can successfully vote absentee. Regardless of where you are in the world, it is important to know there are people and resources available to assist you with the absentee voting process. We can help!

Start the process as soon as possible with an FPCA

Most states require you to register to vote to start the absentee voting process. We encourage you to use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The FPCA is a form you can use to register to vote and request absentee ballots for the year. We suggest that you send in a new FPCA every year and when you move.

Many states allow you to submit your FPCA electronically and all states allow for at least one form of electronic transmission of your blank ballot. Mail delivery times will vary based on where you are and customs requirements. Mail your materials early enough to account for the mail delivery time. Using electronic options can help reduce the ballot transit time for your election materials.

It only takes a few quick steps to make sure your vote is counted no matter where you are in the world. The FPCA can be completed by using the FPCA online assistant at www.fvap.gov/citizenvoter/registration-ballots, filling out the PDF at www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Forms/fpca2013.pdf, or picking up a hard copy version from your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

What to do if you do not receive your requested state absentee ballot

If you requested your absentee ballot and haven’t received it from your state at least 30 days before the election, you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB is an emergency backup ballot. This backup ballot can be completed using our FWAB online assistant, by filling out the PDF at www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Forms/fwab2013.pdf, or picking up a hard copy version from your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The online assistant will guide you through the process of completing the form.

Once you complete the form, you will be able to download and print the PDF package to sign and send to your election office. This PDF package even includes a pre-addressed and postage-paid label so you don’t have to worry about finding stamps! Don’t forget a security envelope. (Use a separate blank envelope and write “Security Envelope” on it and place your voted ballot in it. This keeps your vote private.) 

Where is my voting residence?


Your voting residence should be within the state listed on your Leave and Earnings Statement which defines your state for withholding state taxes. Don’t confuse voting residence with home of record. Your home of record is the place you lived when you entered the military. It does not change while you are on active duty. Your voting residence may be the same as your home of record but needs to be updated if and when you decide to establish a new state of legal residence.

Spouses and eligible family members

Your state of residence or domicile and accompanying voting residence may differ from your sponsor’s, as it isn’t assumed upon marriage. The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) allows you to retain the same residence or domicile that your service member has established so long as you also established residency or domicile in the same state.

MSRRA does not permit you to choose any state; you must establish residency or domicile. Ways to do this may include voting, paying taxes, owning property, holding a driver’s license and registering a vehicle. Requirements vary by state; consult legal counsel to discuss tax implications and other effects of MSRRA. As a military spouse you can:

• Retain your sponsor’s or service member’s residency or domicile

• Keep your current, established residency or domicile

• Take the appropriate steps to establish a new residency or domicile

Some children turn 18 while their family is stationed overseas. To vote, they should use the last U.S. address they had before departing to the current duty station.

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