2020 Ballot Return Strategies

The moment we've all been waiting for!  

Ballots are starting to arrive in our email mailboxes from counties across the America.  

Time Saver: After review of this section find your state in the boxes below and follow the instructions for ballot return. 

Our suggestions for returning your ballot.

Key principles:  

Choose an electronic transmission method whenever possible.

Return the ballot as early as possible. 

Consult your state rules for acceptable methods for returning your ballot at VoteFromAbroad.org/states.  Check your state page for any last minute changes.

Check your email this week for your ballot.

If you don't see it, try search word "county" or the jurisdiction where you vote. Still can't locate it, try looking in spam.

Be sure to follow the guidelines and the instructions exactly, otherwise your vote may not be counted.

Return your ballot as early as possible.

Ballots requested earlier than 10 days ago should be in your email no later than Saturday, September 19th.

If you need assistance, contact us at:  

vote-es@democratsabroad.org

The box images show how your state requires you to return your ballot.

Fax

Some states allow you to fax or email back your ballot.  Some states only allow ballots to be faxed or mailed back.  Please fax back due to the pandemic.

Download and print the ballot. Vote your ballot.

Read instructions carefully.  Locate the fax number of the election office.

Include a cover sheet with number of pages including the cover sheet.

Sign the voter identification affidavit.  Sign waiver of secrecy when requested.

Fax to Election Office

Local Fax Options:  Locutorios

Many "locutorios" still have fax capability.  

Use the cover sheet in ballot package if sent to you. If not, here is a template.

Hand assistant the cover sheet with the County Election Office fax number.

Provide assistant with cover sheet, waiver of secrecy, (if required) identification affidavit, and all pages of the ballot.

FVAP Online Fax Options

Email to Fax Service by Federal Voter Assistance Program (free government service)

It is preferable to use a local fax service, see above.  It is direct with no intermediary. You receive immediate receipt of transmission.  

Download and print the ballot.

Vote your ballot.

Sign the voter identification affidavit.

Read instructions carefully.  Locate the fax number of the election office.

Complete the FVAP Required Cover Page.  Download here

Note number of pages including the cover sheet.

Sign waiver of secrecy.

Send ballot material by email to fax@fvap.gov 

FVAP tends to get swamped from 48 hours prior to Election Day. Please use this service early.

Online Email-to-Fax Services

There are multiple email to fax services online.  

Some are free for one fax, others have a per page fee.

Email

Many states now allow you to return your ballot as an attachment to an email.  

How the state election office sends you the ballot packet varies by state. Sometimes it is a link to the ballot packet.  Some states send two emails. The first is a link to the ballot packet and a second email with a password.  

Download and print the ballot packet with the instruction, and the identification pages.

Read the instructions carefully.

Vote your ballot.  

Complete identification page and sign where indicated.

Scan or take very clear and well lit photos of the ballot pages and identification info.

This should be returned as two separate files so your ballot is printed out independently of  your identifying information on the receiving end. 

Attach to an email and send.

If you do not have access to these services at home, the office, library or school then check out a local "locutorio". 

Obtain the email address of the "locutorio".  Send the ballot packet that was sent to you as an email to the locutorio. It's very handy if it is on your mobile phone. Ask the clerk to print out the packet. Then you can vote the ballot there, at a café or at home.

When the ballot is voted and the identification affidavit is filled-in and signed, ask the clerk to scan as two separate files, labelled as ballot and identification or affidavit.  

Then attach the files to an email addressed to the local election official.  The election officials info are on the instruction page. 

If you need assistance ask a neighbor, friend or contact us at vote-es@democratsabroad or WhatsApp at +34 666 997 699 

Mail

Please use the mail only if you are required to return the ballot by mail.

This election we need a landslide, so you must act quickly for your mail-in ballot to arrive in time to be counted.

There are currently long delays in the postal service with mail taking four (4) or more weeks to transport.

Download your ballot on September 19.

Mail it on Monday September 21 or very soon after.   This allows a full 6 weeks for ballot return through the postal system.

Some states will count mailed in ballots for one to 10 days after receipt of the ballot provided it was postmarked prior to Election Day. 

State specific rules and deadlines can be found at: VotefromAbroad.org/states

 Correos  

The standard method of returning your ballot by mail is  through Correos with the basic Tarifa C rate plus differential for envelope size and weight.  This is generally about 2.3€ - 4€.  

Certified mail cannot be tracked once it leaves the Spanish mail system, but you can verify delivery using the tracking number provided.

US Consular Services

The US Embassy and Consulate General just announced a Facebook Live event on September 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm to help answer voting questions.

The State Department provides a ballot drop box in the lobby at the Embassy in Madrid and at the Consulate in Barcelona. Madrid is open in the morning from 8 –1 and Barcelona is open 9-1 M-F on business days.  Appointments are not required to drop off a ballot, but a photo ID is.  Offices are closed for local and US holidays.

Consular Agencies in Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Seville, and Malalga (Fuengirola) will accept ballots for return to the US by appointment. Bring a photo ID (NEI, DNI or US Passport).

The Consul is recommending that voters allow a minimum 4 weeks for delivery of the ballot to the election offices following drop off at a state department facility.

All Election material returned through Consular Services must have US postage.

Since most overseas voters receive their ballot by email you must provide your own envelope.  Some states will provide a post-paid envelope template or post-paid label. It is possible to craft an envelope using a printout of an envelope template some states provide. Election follow-up studies show that some of these end up getting ripped in the sorting machines and are disqualified.  It is preferable to use the printed label pasted on a purpose made envelope. Most consular offices will have a post-paid envelope available that you can address to the local election official, but there may be a wait required.  Always write your return address in Spain on the envelope. 

Post-paid labels and envelopes are only valid in US mail (e.g., if using the diplomatic pouch).  The election mail envelopes can be used in the Spanish mail system, but  you must add local postage. 

The return envelope is date and location stamped prior to being sent with the state department mail in the diplomatic pouch. The diplomatic pouch arrives at the State Dept mail facility in D.C.  Election mail then enters the US Postal System.

Courier Services

Trackable and traceable: you will know that your ballot will be delivered in a few days when sent by courier. Although it is an investment, this may be a small price for the 'piece of mind' of knowing that your ballot is counted.

No Post Office Box addresses are permitted. You may have to call for a delivery address.

These services offer delivery times of 3-5 days depending on the destination city and if it is over a weekend or holiday.  Delivery is often quicker. 

Retail Pricing:

FedEx is 82.00€

DHL is 43.00€  Drop off at DHL Express may be less. 

UPS is 40.17€

Correos Express Envelope 35.80€    International service offered through FedEx

Mailboxes Etc.  ~28€   International service offered through UPS. 

FAQs

Can we put a bunch of addressed ballots in their post-paid envelopes and send them by courier to have a relative or friend mail them from the US?

No, because the overseas ballots should be returned from abroad. All mail is location and date stamped by the State Dept or Correos which demonstrates point of origin. 

Overseas absentee ballots are released no later than 45 days before the election.  Absentee ballots for use in-state are sent out 2-3 weeks prior to the election. The deadlines for return are sometimes longer for overseas voters. 

Can we put a bunch of ballots sent directly to the same county election office in the same box by courier?

It is advisable to call ahead to the county election office to find out the state regulations.  It may be illegal to collect another voter’s ballot. This may be interpreted as ‘ballot harvesting’ which is illegal without specific authorization, or by a member of the same household. There may be a way but always get it in writing from the election official that it is OK.  Members of the same household can normally send their ballots back in the same envelope. 

Additional questions can be answered here

Verify Ballot Arrival at Election Office

Verify that your ballot has been received by your election office.  The election official marks your voter file when the ballot is received, and if it is eligible to be tabulated. If there is a problem they are obligated to inform you of the issue.  The biggest obstacle is poor signature match from your voter record.  If you sent in your ballot request by email you have a copy you can look at and correct the problem.  By the time you see their email it may be too late. Remain proactive until your ballot is ready for tabulation. 

"For overseas voters, November is now!" 

Please make your plan and figure out how you are going to return your ballot. This is critical if you are in a state that requires return by mail.

You've been waiting 4 long years for this opportunity, don't let it slip by.