Midterm elections may not take place until November 6, but for voters abroad, the time to request a ballot is now. This year, America will elect 435 House of Representatives, 34 Senators, 36 Governors, thousands of others to state and local positions, and decide the outcome of critical issues on some ballots as well. In many cases, votes from abroad will be THE margin of victory, which means it's more important than ever to ensure your vote is counted. Unsure about your voter status? Wondering when to expect a ballot? We’ve got you covered.
CAN I VOTE?
Can I vote from abroad by absentee ballot in midterm elections?
Yes! At a minimum, you are entitled to vote for federal elections, which includes your representative and senators. Beyond this, details vary by state.
To receive your ballot, follow the prompts on Vote From Abroad to complete, download, print, sign, date and mail in your ballot request ("FPCA") to your local elections office. Mailing details will be provided within your ballot request forms.
What about other offices, like Secretary of State or State Senator? Can I vote for them? What about state ballot measures?
Beyond federal elections, the extent of what you can vote for as an American abroad varies by state and can be impacted by a number of factors, including whether or not you have said that you "intend to return" or that your "return is uncertain."
Contact your Local Election Office directly if you have specific questions about this.
Can I vote in primary elections?
Yes, but restrictions, if applicable, most often vary by state. Review our primary election FAQs.
Can I vote if I've never lived in the U.S.?
If you have never lived in the USA, you should use voting address of a citizen parent (see more details below). Do note that there are a few states that do not allow U.S. citizens who have not lived in the U.S. to vote in their elections. We are working with the states to try to change these laws so that children born abroad have somewhere to vote. You might want to contact your Senators and Representative about the issue as well since they lose votes when your children don't have ballots. But again, please note that there are sometimes cases of voter ineligibility.
Can I vote in a different state?
Americans overseas generally keep their last residence in the U.S. as their voting address. While you are only allowed to vote in one state per election, changing your registration is possible, particularly if you own property, businesses, and/or file taxes in a different state, subject to state residency requirements.
To claim a new legal residence or domicile, consult legal counsel as there may be other factors to consider, such as tax implications.
REQUESTING A BALLOT
When do I have to request my ballot?
You should request your ballot NOW (and each January in future election years), and register to vote if you haven't already done so. A complete list of details and deadlines by state can be found here, but the earlier you do this, the better. Why put off until later what you can do now?
Why should I use Vote From Abroad? I have contacted by Secretary of State and they have said I can just vote a register absentee ballot.
Vote From Abroad helps you to request a ballot as a voter abroad using an FPCA form, which offers unique advantages:
- Ensures you receive all ballots for the yr, incl primaries, special & runoff elections
- Allows you to receive ballots electronically
- Protects your ballot in a recount (a ballot w/o a corresponding FPCA form could be challenged in a close election)
- Requires your state sends your ballot at least 45 days before an election
- Allows you to use a backup ballot (Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, or FWAB), if you do not receive your ballot
Many states also allow overseas voters more time to submit and/or to return their ballots electronically.
Can I vote without requesting a ballot? I know I am registered and my state has always sent my ballot automatically.
Each election year, we hear from voters -- even voters in blue states -- whose names were removed from voter registration lists or who were surprised to learn that their state had changed its ballot request process.
Using Vote From Abroad means that your voter registration and ballot request is subject to federal protection offered by the MOVE Act (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act). Even if you live in a state that makes it easy for citizens abroad to vote, we strongly urge you to use Vote From Abroad early each election year, because errors, problems and surprises can happen in any state. The sanctity of your vote is worth the effort.
When filling in the form, it asks me for my U.S. voting address. What does that mean?
Your voting residence is the address where you last lived in the U.S. and remains valid even if you no longer own property or have other ties to that location, your intent to return is uncertain, or if this address is no longer a residential address.
If you have never lived in the U.S., we recommend using the voting address of your parents, but please note that not all states allow this option.
I can't remember that address. What do I do?
We recommend you:
- Look for the address in old documents, like a tax return from a year you lived in the state.
- Ask a parent or sibling for the address.
- Ask a friend or relative if they have an old address for you in their address book.
- Try online map tools to see if you can identify your old house.
- Box 9 on the form has space for Other Information. If you do not know the address or in the rare case that the residence had no address, then you can describe the house, the street or the neighborhood, referencing nearby properties or neighborhood features that will help your Local Election Office identify the place where your residence was physically located.
I’m not sure if I was registered to vote when I left the States. What address can I use?
States define “residency” in different ways. If you still have a valid Driver’s Licence or state-issued ID, use that address to register and request an absentee ballot -- completing the form via Vote From Abroad does both. Some states will allow students to use their parents’ address.
Unfortunately there are some cases where registration is denied on the basis of residency, but this is not always clear and we very much encourage you to TRY to register. This is an incredibly unfair issue for some Americans, which is why we continue to work on enfranchising Americans abroad so that everyone can take advantage of their right to vote. If your registration is denied on the basis of residency, contact our helpdesk or email email@example.com.
I filled in my ballot request form online. Am I done?
You still need to print out the form, sign and date it, and then return to your local elections office via email, fax or post, depending on your state requirements (the PDF you receive after completing your forms should include these details).
Print, Sign, Date, Mail.
What happens after I have mailed in my forms?
States are required to mail absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election, so you should expect to receive your ballot towards the end of September. Your ballot will arrive by post or email, depending on regulations of your voting state.
How will I know if they received the form I sent?
It's a great idea to follow up with your Local Elections Official after you have sent in your ballot request. Many states have voter registration look up and some have absentee ballot look up or you can just contact your local election office by phone or email to ensure your ballot request has been submitted successfully. Find your local election office on VoteFromAbroad for details.
ELECTION DAY COUNTDOWN
What if I still don’t get my ballot?
First, we’re here for you. We have a team of troubleshooters who will do their best to make sure that you are enfranchised to vote. The worst case scenario is that you will have to use the “Emergency Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot.” But you will be able to vote, and your vote will count.
Does my vote from abroad really get counted?
Absolutely! If you have successfully requested, completed and returned your ballot, it WILL be counted. In fact, in 2016, voters abroad were the margin of victory for Senator Maggie Hassan (NH) and Governor Roy Cooper (NC).
How do absentee votes get counted if they declare a winner before all ballots are in?
Election officials only declare a winner if the difference between the top two candidates is larger than the ballots still to be counted. That said, they will adjust the tally once every ballot is in and is counted. That’s why three races in the Virginia House of Delegates were undecided until several days after election day in 2017. They had to count all the absentee ballots from overseas. And those ballots made a difference.
I have other questions. What should I do?
We have a team of experts to help! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org