Interest in Washington politics is reaching a crescendo now that the midterm elections are nearly upon us. As with all elections, the results of the 2018 elections will have an important impact on U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, therefore you should consider voting as a “must”, irrespective of your country of residence.
As an American citizen, you have the right to vote irrespective of whether you live in the US or overseas, in both primary and general elections. At the federal level, you can vote in the primary and general elections, or the general only. You can vote in both state and federal elections.
Overseas voters tend to downplay the importance of their participation in the voting process. Yet ACA representatives are often reminded of the critical role their votes can play when discussing legislative matters with Members of Congress and their staffs.
To make voting from overseas as simple and straightforward as possible, American Citizens Abroad offers a web-based voter registration and absentee ballot request application reachable at: https://www.americansabroad.org/register-to-vote/. This web-based tool is provided by the Overseas Vote Foundation and allows you to also create a persistent personal profile to facilitate voting in future elections.
If the return of your ballot appears to be delayed, check whether you are eligible for a Federal Write in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). If the following 3 statements are true, you are eligible:
- You are an overseas voter or a uniformed services voter, spouse or dependent.
- You sent in the registration/ballot request form to receive an absentee ballot by your state’s deadline.
- Your absentee ballot has not yet arrived.
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.
Voting laws and procedures vary greatly depending on the state of your last US residence. As an overseas voter you can obtain an absentee ballot from, and send a ballot to, the county, borough or parish election office at your last place of residence in the US. The registration process for overseas voters has changed in many states recently, so be sure that you are not caught out by missing a deadline or a change in procedure.
If you have created a new email address to handle traffic while you’re abroad, enter the email address of your voting registrar in the “white list” of your email application, so that important emails don’t end up in your spam directory. You don’t want to find important correspondence in a junk mail directory three months after the vote.
ACA encourages US citizens living abroad to register and vote in the state where they last resided, or in the state in which their parents last resided if permitted by the law of that state. Even if you have never lived in the US, you can probably still register to vote. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia extend voting rights to the children of their former residents who have never resided in the US. Unfortunately, thirteen US states do not extend voting rights to citizens who have never lived in the US. For the latest information concerning each state's position on the subject, please refer to the FVAP website (www.fvap.gov).
Most importantly, remember that voting is more than compliance with an administrative calendar: it’s a civic duty for all of us.