Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download. To start, go to www.FVAP.gov to complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), print and sign the form then return it to your local election office in the United States. We recommend overseas U.S. citizens get in the habit of completing FPCAs each January. You should include your email address on the form so it’s easier for your election officials to reach you if there is a problem. If your state delivers ballots electronically by fax only, be sure to include your fax number. If you request electronic delivery and include your email address or fax number, you’ll receive your blank ballot 45 days before general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices. Most states now have voter registration verification websites, and many offer a means of tracking the status of your registration and ballot.
Mailing your application and ballot
You may bring the completed application in a postage-paid envelope to the U.S. Embassy Consular section any Tuesday or Friday morning and hand it to a consular employee for mailing to the United States. You may also bring your voted ballot, sealed per the instructions, to the Consular section for mailing. Please drop off your application or ballot well in advance of your state’s deadline; it may take up to a month for your FPCA or ballot to reach election officials in the U.S. after it is dropped off at the Embassy.
Almost all U.S. citizens 18 years or older who reside outside the United States are eligible to vote absentee for candidates for federal offices in U.S. primary and general elections. In addition, some states allow overseas citizens to vote for candidates for state and local offices, as well as for state and local referendums. For information regarding your specific state, visit www.fvap.gov. See the list of elections for your state.
For voting purposes, your state of legal residence is generally the state wherein you resided immediately before leaving the United States, even if you no longer own or rent property or intend to return there in the future. Please note that some states and the District of Columbia allow U.S. citizens 18 years or older who were born abroad, but have never resided in the U.S. to vote absentee. Direct your questions about eligibility to your local election officials.
If you are unsure what state or address is your voting residence, consider the following questions:
- Where have you registered to vote or voted in the past?
- What state or territory has issued you a Driver’s License, any other license or identification card?
- Where is your motor vehicle registered?
- Where is your home or home of record?
- What state or territory are you from?
- Where did you live before coming here?
- Where did you live immediately before leaving the United States?
- Where does your family live?
- Where do your parents live?
- Where do you own property?
- What state do you claim for tax residency?
Getting Started with the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)
Most states require you to complete an absentee ballot application to start the absentee voting process. FVAP encourages the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process as it is standardized for use across all States and will extend your eligibility to receive a ballot for all Federal elections for at least one calendar year. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
It only takes a few quick steps to make sure your vote is counted no matter where you are in the world. The FPCA can be easily completed by using the FPCA online assistant, filling out the PDF (PDF 320KB) or picking up a hardcopy version from your voting assistance officer.
1.Complete and sign the FPCA using your state’s instructions, available at www.fvap.gov. Fold and seal your FPCA. If using the online FPCA, print, sign, and put it in an envelope. You qualify for free postage if you use the approved envelope template.
2.Address and mail the FPCA to your local election official, or address it and drop it off at the U.S. Embassy Consular section. Be sure to include your return address, and affix postage if using a foreign postal service. If you use the envelope template and drop it off at the U.S. Embassy, no postage is required.
Verifying Your Registration
Most states now have websites where you can verify your registration. If you are unsure of your voter registration status, or want to confirm that local officials have received and approved your registration, check the FVAP website for a directory of state voter registration verification websites. You can also write, email or call your local election officials directly.
Haven’t Received Your Ballot?
If you have not received a ballot from your state at least 30 days before the election, you may be eligible to vote using the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB is a write-in backup ballot that can be completed for any Federal election. The backup FWAB can be easily completed by using the FWAB online assistant, filling out the PDF (PDF 347KB) or picking up a hardcopy version from the U.S. Embassy. The online assistants will guide you through the questions on the form and produce a printable form for you and will also provide a postage-paid envelope so you don’t have to worry about finding stamps!
1.Complete and sign the FWAB’s Voter Declaration/Affirmation using your state’s instructions here.
2.Vote the ballot by writing in a candidate or party name. Detach the ballot from the security envelope, fold it, insert it into the security envelope, and seal. If using the online FWAB, use a separate blank envelope and write “Security Envelope” on it.
3.Fold and place the completed Voter Declaration/Affirmation and the sealed security envelope into the accompanying “Mailing Envelope”. If using the online FWAB, use your own envelope as the Mailing Envelope. You may print postage paid insignia on your envelope by using the envelope template available here .
4.Address and mail the FWAB to your local election official, or address it and drop it off at the U.S. Embassy Consular section. Be sure to include your return address, and affix postage if using a foreign postal service. If you use the envelope template and drop it off at the U.S. Embassy, no postage is required.
Voting and Taxes
Voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect your federal or state tax liability. Voting for candidates for state or local offices could affect your state income tax liability depending on the laws of your state. Consult legal counsel, a U.S. tax advisor, or your state tax authorities if you have questions.
The Voting Assistance Officer at Embassy Kigali is always available to answer questions about absentee voting. To contact the Voting Assistance Officer, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.