U.S. citizens overseas are guaranteed the right to vote in federal elections in the United States. Please note that you cannot simply log on to a website and vote at the last minute. Some jurisdictions allow you to return your completed absentee ballot electronically and others do not. Adequate preparation is the key.
Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank absentee ballots electronically. Depending on the jurisdiction in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your absentee 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, and then return it to your local election office in the United States. Some jurisdictions also allow Americans living overseas to submit their absentee ballots electronically. 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 jurisdiction delivers absentee ballots by fax only, be sure to include your fax number. Most jurisdictions now have voter registration verification websites, and many offer a means of tracking the status of your registration and absentee ballot.
You cannot register to vote or vote at the U.S. Embassy, nor do we supply the forms necessary to request an absentee ballot from your last place f residence. Please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website. This site has detailed information about absentee voting, including how to download, fill in and send the absentee ballot request form to the appropriate address in your jurisdiction. For quick answers, consult the FVAP’s Voting FAQ.
You can also find more information at Travel.state.gov.
Important Notice: Jurisdictions are no longer required to automatically send absentee ballots to voters for an entire election cycle so everyone who wants to vote in U.S. elections from overseas should send in a new Federal Post Card Application in January of each year.
The Absentee Voting Process
- Request an absentee ballot by completing a Federal Post Card Application, available at the FVAP website.
- Mail your Federal Post Card Application to the local election authority at the address indicated in the instructions via a private courier or international mail. You can also mail your application for free through the U.S. Embassy if the envelope indicates that postage has been pre-paid. Some jurisdictions allow voters to email applications.
- A Local Election Official in your jurisdiction of residence approves your request to register/vote, or asks you for more information.
- Once approved, a Local Election Official in your place of residence emails you an absentee ballot.
- Complete the absentee ballot and submit it to your local election authority. Some jurisdictions allow you to return your completed absentee ballot electronically and others do not. If your jurisdiction requires you to return paper voting forms or absentee ballots to local election officials by mail, you can do so through international mail or professional courier service. You may want to consider returning your absentee ballot via a private courier service or international mail if the deadline for return of your absentee ballot is near. You may also drop off your ballot at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section entrance on Fifth Link Road (between Fourth and Second Circular Roads) in Cantonments, Accra, every Tuesday and Thursday between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm. Ballots dropped off at the embassy must be sealed in a postage paid return envelope or in an envelope bearing sufficient domestic U.S. postage and addressed to the relevant local election authority.
The issue of voting residence is complex. Even in jurisdictions where laws clearly define criteria for determining a person’s voting residence, the final determination is generally up to each local election official. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) allows citizens outside the United States (not affiliated with the Uniformed Services) to vote in the state or territory where they last resided immediately prior to departing the United States, even if many years have elapsed, and the voter maintains no residence in the state or territory, and the intent to return to that state or territory may not be certain. If a citizen is uncertain about his or her current legal voting residence, the citizen should examine his or her connections or ties to the state or territory in question and consult with legal counsel.
Only 17 states, to date, provide exemption to the physical presence law for UOCAVA citizens overseas. These states allow eligible U.S. citizens who have never resided in the U.S. to register and vote where a parent would be eligible to vote. See the FVAP Voting Assistance Guide for specific information.
What about Taxes?
Exercising your right to vote in elections for Federal offices in an of itself may not be used as the sole basis to determine residence or domicile for purposes of any tax imposed under Federal, state or local law. If you claim a particular state or territory as your residence and have other ties with that state or territory in addition to voting then you may be liable for state and local taxation, depending upon that particular state law. Consult your local tax officials for further information.
Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
Overseas voters may be eligible to use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to vote for federal offices (President/Vice President, Senator, and Representative).The FWAB may be used only for general elections and is a backup for voters who expect to be able to use the regular absentee ballot from their state or territory but who did not receive that absentee ballot in time to vote and return it. The FWAB must be received by the local election official no later than the deadline for receipt of regular absentee ballots under state law.
The FWAB is to be used to assist those voters who would be disenfranchised through no fault of their own, and is not designed as a replacement for the regular state ballot. It is valid only when the state ballot has been requested.
Please visit www.fvap.gov for further information about absentee voting.