Millions of U.S. citizens are either living, serving, or studying abroad during an election and many of these citizens can and should participate in our democracy. Being abroad could also be due to active military service for a student or their family. Here are some resources to help U.S. citizens abroad during an election — regardless of reasoning — to navigate participating in our democracy while not being physically within the country.
Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 allows for certain groups of citizens to register to vote and receive an absentee ballot (if requested), despite being abroad and not physically residing in the United States at the time of registering or receiving their ballot.
Registering to Vote Overseas
Citizens who are overseas must be registered to vote . Citizens can either be registered before they leave the country or while they are abroad. To register to vote, overseas voters must use the resources provided by their state of voting residency. Information will be available by departments of states or state election boards. Citizens who are serving or are accompanying their family member who is serving in the military must ensure that they are abiding by military voting procedures and sending in new registration information and ballot information if stationing information has changed.
Federal Post Card Application
The Federal Post Card Application (FCPA) is a system through which overseas citizens can request an absentee ballot. Applicants will fill out their information, print the form, and send it to their local election office where they have voting residency. An absentee ballot will then be mailed to them before elections wherever they are located. The FCPA must be filled out annually. Overseas voters who are abroad will receive their absentee ballot 45 days before the November general election. Ballots will generally be mailed out 30 days before primary, special, and run-off elections. Depending on their state and their status abroad, they may receive absentee ballots for all elections or abbreviated ballots for federal office elections only.
Voting While Studying Abroad
Students who are U.S. citizens and wish to vote while studying abroad must first be registered with officials in their state. Students must complete the Federal Post Card Application (see more above) to request an absentee ballot abroad, similar to other overseas voters. Student voters studying abroad who do not receive their absentee ballot in time, may also request a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (see more above).
There are Voting Assistance Officers (VAO) to ensure that military and overseas voters understand their voting rights and are able to receive accurate nonpartisan voting information. Overseas citizens can contact Voting Assistance Officers within their area if they have any questions about how to register or vote while overseas. To locate a VAO find available contact details here. If you are not a military member, military family member, or an overseas citizen? You can get absentee voting assistance through your local election office. Get their contact information here.
Federal Voting Assistance Program — The federal program that works to ensure military service members, their eligible family members, and other overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so.
The Uniformed And Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act — As explained on the U.S. Justice Department website, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act allows certain U.S. citizens living abroad to register and vote in U.S. elections. Depending on your state, you may also be able to vote in state and local elections.
U.S. State Department — For U.S. citizens that are traveling abroad either permanently or temporarily, the U.S. State Department provides resources for these citizens to get their absentee ballots.