If you're a U.S. citizen or dual-national, you have the right to vote from abroad in federal elections — don't let anyone tell you otherwise, especially in this critical election year!
Wenn Du die U.S.-amerikanische oder doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft besitzt, hast Du das Recht darauf, bei U.S-Wahlen auf Bundesebene zu wählen — lass Dir nichts anderes einreden, vor allem nicht in diesem kristischen Wahljahr!
Last updated: September 26, 2020
As a U.S. citizen, you can register to vote from abroad while living, working, or traveling overseas by submitting one form, the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). It doesn't matter if you were registered to vote before you left the U.S. or how long you have lived outside the U.S. (including if you've never resided there).
Below you'll find an overview of the entire process of voting from abroad, including:
1. how to register to vote and request your absentee ballot
2. how to confirm your request has been accepted
3. how and when you should receive your ballot
4. how to return your absentee ballot, and
5. what to do if you encounter difficulties.
1.) Register to vote and request your absentee ballot 📝
Visit www.votefromabroad.org to fill out your FPCA absentee ballot request — it only takes 5-10 minutes! If you’re not registered to vote, the FPCA also serves as a voter registration form. Given the uncertainty surrounding the United States Postal Service (USPS), we strongly encourage you to request that your absentee ballot is sent to you via email.
Once you've filled out the form on www.votefromabroad.org, you will need to submit it to your local election office in the United States. While some states allow the FPCA to be submitted online via Vote from Abroad, others require a scanned or hard copy (the website will provide instructions based on the state you're voting in). State deadlines and submission methods can be found here.
If you have any questions while filling out the form, you can also always refer to Vote from Abroad's FAQ section or type your question in the website's chatbox (red circle in the bottom right-hand corner).
2.) Confirm your request has been accepted and that you will receive an absentee ballot ☑️
You should always verify with your local election official (LEO) that you will be receiving a ballot. After you send in your FPCA request form, call or email your LEO to verify they received it and will be sending a blank ballot to you. Your LEO's contact information is listed in the instructions generated when you complete the FPCA on Vote from Abroad. You can also look up their contact info here.
Alternatively, most states provide a website where you can verify your voter status, although these sites can sometimes be outdated. You can find it by searching for "[state] verify voter registration."
3.) Receive your absentee ballot 📬
As required under the MOVE Act, all states must send absentee ballots to overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal election (this year: September 19, 2020). If you requested it by fax or email, it should be in your inbox (don't forget to check your spam folder!). If you requested it by postal mail, expect to see it in your mailbox in the coming week. If you do not receive your ballot by the end of September, you will want to contact your LEO and contact Democrats Abroad for help, if necessary.
4.) Return your absentee ballot 🗳️
Once you've received your ballot, fill it out and return it immediately. Ballot return methods vary by state (online, email, postal mail, fax). Especially if your state only allows postal mail return** — which is the case in many swing states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin — it is imperative that you return your ballot as quickly as possible. Try to return your ballot within 48 hours of receiving it.
Check your state's exact ballot return methods here.
If your state allows email or fax ballot return, please use these options as they’re not subject to delay. Here is more information on fax submission. Please note that some states that allow email or fax return requires that the ballot be sent by postal mail, too.
If your state requires postal mail ballot return, we recommend using the Deutsche Post until October 5. Current estimated delivery time from Germany to the United States is 3-7 work days (https://www.deutschepost.de/de/b/briefe-ins-ausland/laenderinformationen.html).
We do NOT recommend sending your ballot as registered mail ("Einschreiben"), as this may actually prevent your ballot from being delivered (ex. if your county clerk isn't there to sign, your ballot can end up being sent back to you). If you want to have a tracking feature without sending as registered mail, you will need to use a courier.
FedEx Express is kindly offering Americans abroad a discount to send ballots home reliably. US voters living in 10 European countries can now take advantage of a special rate for overnight return of their absentee ballot. From now through November, FedEx International Priority service for envelopes up to 500g sent to the USA costs just €25 from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Denmark (kr.186), Poland (112 zł), Sweden (260 kr), and the United Kingdom (£23). Feel free to privately tell your friends and family, but please do not post about this on social media.
After October 5, we recommend using a private courier, like DHL Express (different from DHL), FedEx, or UPS, if financially feasible. All states that require postal mail return have confirmed that they will accept ballots sent with such couriers.
In either case, please take your ballot to the post office / private courier's store to ensure it receives the correct postage.
Don't forget to write USA at the bottom of the address field.
We do NOT recommend using the diplomatic pouch at U.S. embassies or consulates as return times are currently highly unpredictable.
Regardless of how you send in your ballot, remember that you (the voter) must be the one who places it in the mail. In some states, it is unlawful for any other person to handle your voted ballot, even if it is sealed.
And when filling out your ballot and packaging your ballot, don't forget to carefully review the instructions. Don't let human error spoil your ballot!
5.) Having trouble? Need help? 😕
We understand that the process of voting from abroad can be confusing — that's why we're here to help. We're available all day every Sunday through Election Day for one-on-one support (login info available by clicking on links).
** Important note to voters from Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Your state requires overseas voters' ballots to be returned by postal mail. Due to concerns about postal delays, we are urging voters from these states to already submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB), also known as a "backup" or "emergency" ballot.
What is the FWAB, and why should I use it?
The FWAB is a ballot specifically for overseas voters to use to preserve their vote in uncertain circumstances. Mailing in your FWAB now will protect your vote in case mail is curtailed in Fall 2020.
There's no downside to submitting a FWAB. But you should also mail in your official ballot as soon as you receive it. (Federal law requires all states to send ballots to overseas voters by September 19.) If both the FWAB and your official ballot reach your voting jurisdiction by the deadline, only the official ballot will be counted and the FWAB will be discarded.
How do I submit a FWAB?
If you haven't already submitted a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) — the absentee ballot request form for overseas voters — this is your first step. You can do this at www.votefromabroad.org. If you're unsure, please fill it out again. Multiple submissions are okay, and your local election office must honor the most recent submission. Please note that information from your FPCA must match your information on your FWAB.
To fill out the FWAB, go to www.fvap.gov/fwab-privacy-notice. Keep in mind that it is a ballot so be sure to read the instructions carefully!