For U.S. voters living abroad or deployed with the military, receiving and sending back an official voting ballot can be a challenge to successfully voting absentee. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Federal Voting Assistance Program, FVAP, showed the voting rate among overseas citizens in 2016 would have been more than five times higher if these voters could register to vote and cast ballots as quickly and easily as voters living stateside.
Last week was Absentee Voting Week, when FVAP, U.S. military installations, embassies, consulates and overseas citizens groups reminded U.S. Service members, their families and overseas citizens to vote now - and helping them do so from anywhere.
Fortunately there are special protections for voters. Most registered overseas and military Service members who requested an absentee ballot should have received it by now, as election offices nationwide had to send them by Sept. 22. However, those who do not get their ballot in time to return it by their state's deadline can use a special backup ballot, the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, available at FVAP.gov.
"Absentee voters should check their state voting deadlines, follow all ballot instructions and send back their ballot in plenty of time for it to arrive," FVAP Director David Beirne said. "We encourage military and overseas voters to use the backup ballot at FVAP.gov if they are concerned about missing their state's voting deadline."
FVAP offers an interactive online tool that helps voters fill out their backup ballot. The tool saves time and improves accuracy by using the voter's registration address to list all candidates for federal offices for that jurisdiction. Without the tool, voters must determine which candidates are running in their district and then manually write in the names. After filling out the backup ballot, voters must print, sign and send it to their election office. Voters who end up getting an official ballot after sending in a backup ballot should still fill it out and send it back, as well. States will ensure only one ballot is counted per voter.
For voters who are just starting to think about the election, there is still time to register in many states. Voters can visit FVAP.gov for their state's specific voter registration, ballot request and ballot submission deadlines.
The voting rights of 3 million U.S. citizens living overseas, as well as Service members and their eligible family members, are protected by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.