American Citizens Abroad Calls on Overseas Americans to Vote
If you are an American citizen living overseas you are fully entitled to vote in both primary and general election contests. It is important that you exercise your right to vote from wherever you are. Don’t let distance prevent you from standing up and being counted!
In 2016 ACA wrote to the Democratic and Republican Presidential Candidates asking for their opinions on issues affecting Americans living and working overseas. See our letters here and here. In 2020 ACA is providing Americans overseas with a write-in campaign so they can get the answers directly from the candidates themselves.
US citizens who are already registered to vote or who have voted in previous elections should complete a new "Federal Postcard Application" (FPCA) to ensure they receive their ballot via the fastest delivery method possible. This can be done at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, www.fvap.gov, which has an excellent FAQ section: https://www.fvap.gov/vao/vag/appendix/faq.
Alternatively, voters can go to www.overseasvote.org to request an absentee ballot, and at the same time create a persistent personal profile which will facilitate voting in future years.
Voting laws and procedures vary from state to state. You will obtain an absentee ballot from, and send your ballot to the county, borough or parish election office at your last place of domicile in the United States. The registration process for overseas voters has changed in many states this election cycle, so be sure that you are not caught out by missing a deadline. Voting at US consulates abroad is not allowed.
A review of state voting laws which have changed recently indicates that where proof of citizenship or photo ID is required, a copy of the passport placed in the mailing envelope (but separate from the security envelope containing your ballot) is the most commonly adopted solution for overseas voters.
ACA recommends that all overseas citizens keep several copies of their passport available, to facilitate passport replacement in case of loss or theft, and to document citizenship when required by voting laws. It's also a good idea to memorize your US Social Security number as the last four digits of this number are often required during the registration process.
A number of states have introduced so-called “voter ID laws” which have had the effect of suppressing voter turnout in many communities. Fortunately, military and overseas voters who vote by absentee ballot under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) are exempt from ALL voter ID requirements, save the passport copy. Voters now need to register and request a ballot in each election year, since ballots are no longer automatically sent to overseas voters at their previous address of record.
In some states, voting in state or local races (e.g., Governor, Mayor or State Assemblyman) may be considered as an element potentially justifying your liability to state taxation. If you wish to vote in local elections, seek legal advice about how it may affect your tax liability. In contrast, voting in federal elections only (President, Vice President, Senator and Representative) will not affect your state tax status.
If you have requested an absentee ballot but don't receive it time to return it before your state's election day deadline, there is a fallback method for obtaining a substitute ballot: the "Federal write-in absentee ballot" (FWAB). This document enables voting and, in some states, voter registration as well. Visit www.overseasvotefoundation.org/vote/FwabStart.htm to start this process.
If you are a US citizen, but have never lived in the United States, a number of states will permit you to vote in the last place of residence of your American parent(s). FVAP has a current list of States that allow these citizens to vote absentee: www.fvap.gov/citizen-voter/reside. In a number of states, such persons are eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.
If you travel extensively but are US based, with a US address, you can ensure you get your ballot there quickly with a visit to www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/ voter-registration-absentee-voting.htm. Finally, if you cannot find an answer to your question on the websites above, feel free to contact the Voting Assistance Officer at the closest US Embassy or Consulate.
This ACA webpage was updated in May 2020