September 15, 2020

What is an FWAB and Why Should I Care?


FWAB stands for Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. In past years, we’ve used the FWAB if we tracked our regular ballot and learned it had not arrived. For instance, if we mailed our ballot back by Oct 1st or so, and it hadn’t arrived at our county board of election by Oct 15, we might send an FWAB, possibly by express mail or courier.

But 2020 is different! Mail service from some countries has been affected by the pandemic. Planes are not flying as often, and some mail is going by surface (slow boat).

In the US, mail delivery has been gut-punched by Mr. Trump’s recently appointed head of the USPS, Louis DeJoy. The news has been full of headlines about his cutting staff overtime and ripping out sorting machines and post boxes.

Hedging the Bet

As Dems Abroad leadership looked over the options, someone noted that the FWAB, being a write-in ballot didn’t have to be just a late remedy. It could be sent long before the actual ballots come out from states and gain a week to a month’s leg-up on mail delays. So, by mid-August, the word went out to ‘send an FWAB!’

This caused some confusion, especially because, at the same time, Trump was bloviating on about ‘mail-in fraud.’ (This lie that has been roundly debunked by voting experts and several states that conduct all voting by mail-in.)

FWAB is S.O.P.

Local Election Officials (LEOs) are trained to sort out FWABs. Also, the FWAB itself has instructions for them. If they receive only the FWAB by their deadline, they count it. If both the FWAB and the regular ballot are received, they count the regular ballot and throw away the FWAB. And we, voters, have voted ONCE according to the law.

The FWAB is produced by FVAP (Federal Voter Assistance Program) and it is only for use by Americans voting from abroad. It’s tailored now to state rules. FWABs for some states have only the federal races: presidential, House and Senate. For other states, once their ballot is certified after their primaries, there may be spaces for down ballot races as well.

Get Your FWAB, Fill and Send

In all cases, the presidential choice must have both the NAME and PARTY written in. But other races can be voted just by noting PARTY. (Reminder: Democratic is a nice choice!)

Although the ‘early FWAB option’ ends Sep 19 when ballots come out, it still may make sense to send one this year. Separate envelopes of course. Make sure ONE of your ballots arrives at your LEO.

FWAB is available directly from the website.

It’s also available after a stop to get more details tailored to the overseas voter, on the Vote From Abroad website. For even more info, check this step-by-step slide deck.