Guide for Voting Assistance Officers
A Uniformed Service member who is living within their voting jurisdiction and can vote locally is not covered under UOCAVA.
As a Voting Assistance Officer (VAO), you are part of a worldwide network of military members, U.S. government employees, and volunteers who aid in ensuring that citizens covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) understand their voting rights and know how to vote absentee.
These citizens include:
- An active duty member of the Uniformed Services, Merchant Marine, or commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- An eligible spouse or family member of an active duty member of the Uniformed Services, Merchant Marine, or commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S.
Online training modules for VAOs and Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office staff are also available online at
Become familiar with the absentee voting process, the forms,
FVAP.gov, your organization and your Service's voting website.
- Sign up to receive news releases from FVAP. Subscribe online at FVAP.gov or email email@example.com and provide your email address.
- Workshops are offered at military installations and U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. You can find information about these trainings by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or your Service Voting Action Officer (SVAO).
- Take the online training for Voting Assistance Officers available at FVAP.gov.
Contact info for IVA Offices can be found online at
FVAP.gov. Local residents may include civilians, contractors, or service members living within their voting jurisdiction.
VAOs provide voters with accurate and nonpartisan voting information and assistance.
- Help voters fill out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) according to their state's specific requirements.
- Display voting information at unit or installation family events, and leverage readiness programs or spouse clubs.
- Refer local residents and eligible Americans on an OCONUS installation to the Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office for local registration assistance.
Promote voter awareness
- Post notices and/or posters on bulletin boards and social media to increase awareness of how to register and vote. When posting, make sure to include your contact information or the contact information for the IVA Office. Popular locations include installation housing, gyms, exchanges, and commissaries.
- Provide voting information at Commanders Calls and other group formations.
- Use Armed Forces Voters Week, Overseas Citizens Voters Week, and Absentee Voting Week to get the word out.
- During Absentee Voting Week, announce through various media that voters should return their voted ballots immediately. If they have not received their requested state absentee ballot, encourage them to use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB).
Keep voting supplies available
VAOs with access to a computer, internet and printer can use online versions of these forms. Deploying units should take sufficient paper copies in the event of internet connectivity issues.
- Keep an adequate supply of FPCAs for all unit members and their voting-age family members. As a VAO, you are required to provide FPCAs to all unit members and their families by January 15 of each year and all potential voters by July 15. Additionally, ensure you have enough forms for year-round registration, absentee ballot requests, and change-of-address requests for those deploying, returning from deployments, moving, or PCSing.
- Keep an adequate supply of FWABs on hand year-round for citizens to use in case they do not receive their state absentee ballot.
- To request outreach materials, such as posters, wallet cards, and brochures, contact your SVAO or email email@example.com.
Manage your program
- Develop relationships with the installation Public Affairs office to display voting messages on installation marquees and place FVAP news releases in the installation's paper.
- Include your contact information on the bottom of posters so service members know who to contact.
- Create or maintain your Continuity Folder.
- List your contact information in your installation directory for referrals.
- Ensure the timely submission of metrics in the FVAP portal.
- Installation-level VAOs should work with your Installation Commander to assign an Assistant Voting Assistance Officer to help with your duties as a VAO.
- If you serve in an Installation Voter Assistance Office, a handbook for office staff is available in the VAO section online at FVAP.gov.
Share your good ideas
After each federal election, the Services and Department of State issue After Action Reports that include good ideas submitted by VAOs to improve the absentee voting process. Good ideas enhance lines of communication among VAOs at all levels and enable you to improve your voting assistance efforts.
Your good ideas may come from:
- Personal experiences
- Assessments, audits, and appraisals
- Training evaluations
- Operational Readiness Reviews
- Voting activities, such as registration drives
Have a good idea?
- Send it to your Service Voting Action Officer (SVAO).
- Overseas citizen organizations may submit their ideas directly to FVAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Be sure to include a clear statement of your idea and your complete contact information.
Dates for the November 2020 Election
FPCAs should be distributed to all members of your unit every January and in July of election years. Be sure to reach eligible family members too.
For recommended mailing dates see page 10 of the Voting Assistance Guide or visit FVAP.gov.
|Deliver FPCAs to all Service members and their families.||January 15
|Deliver FPCAs to eligible voters.||July 15
|Election officials send ballots to UOCAVA voters.||at least 45 calendar days before the election|
|VAOs should encourage voters who have not received their requested state ballot to complete the FWAB.||30 calendar days before the election|
|Submit unit and installation voting metrics in the FVAP Portal.||In accordance with Service requirements
Guidance regarding these tasks can be found in the Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1000.04 and Service Guidance. All guidance can also be found in the VAO section online at FVAP.gov.
Determining voting residency
To vote in U.S. elections, citizens must have a legal voting residence address in a state or territory. The issue of voting residence depends on individual circumstances.
A voting residence establishes the jurisdiction to which the citizen must submit voting materials.
For Uniformed Service members and their eligible family members: For voting purposes, legal voting residence can be in the state or territory where the individual last resided prior to entering military service, or the state or territory that the individual has since claimed as their legal residence. Even though the individual no longer maintains formal ties to that residence, the address determines their proper voting jurisdiction. To claim a new legal residence, an individual must have simultaneous physical presence and intend to return to that location as their primary residence.Uniformed Service members and their eligible family members may change their residence every time they change permanent duty stations, or they may keep their residence at their previous location. This may mean that the family's Uniformed Service member has a different voting residence than his/her family members, because family members do not automatically assume the residence of the member.
Individuals should consult a legal assistance officer if they are not sure of their voting residence, because there are usually other factors that should be considered besides voting.
Spouses of Uniformed Service members may change their residency to that of the Uniformed Service members without establishing residency in that state.
Contact your legal assistance officer for help determining legal residence.
For overseas citizens: Overseas citizens' legal state of residence for voting purposes is the state or territory where they last resided immediately prior to their departure from the United States. This applies to overseas citizens even if they do not have property or other ties in the last state of residence. Children of these citizens should use the residence address of one of their parents or legal guardians. In some states, those who were born abroad and have never resided in the United States are eligible to vote absentee using their parent or legal guardian's address. To see if your state allows this, check the state pages in Chapter 2 of the Voting Assistance Guide (Guide) or find the listing online at FVAP.gov.
Helping individuals complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)
The FPCA can be used by Uniformed Service members, their eligible family members, and overseas citizens to simultaneously register to vote and request an absentee ballot. As a VAO, you should help individuals correctly complete their FPCAs. Election officials determine the voter's eligibility to vote based on information provided in this application. Individuals should include all contact information on their FPCA and submit it early enough for election officials to contact them if they need additional information to process the form.
Check that FPCAs are filled out correctly and include:
- Signature and date
- Complete voting residence address (no P.O. Box addresses)
- Legible handwriting
- All information required by the state
- Complete current address (must be a different address than the voting residence address)
Forms should not be sent directly to FVAP or an embassy/consulate as they are unable to process them.
Remind voters to send the FPCA early enough to be received by the state registration and/or absentee ballot request deadline. If you are working in an IVA Office, offer to mail forms on behalf of the voter. Remember, collected forms must be mailed within five calendar days. Overseas voters must contact their embassy or consulate prior to dropping off forms.
Helping complete the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
If Uniformed Service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens have requested, but have not received their state absentee ballot in time to vote and return it before the deadline, they should use the FWAB.
If citizens receive their state absentee ballot after submitting the FWAB, they should vote and return the state absentee ballot immediately. If the election office receives the state absentee ballot by the ballot return deadline, the state absentee ballot will be counted instead of the FWAB.
- The President and Vice President
- U.S. Senators
- U.S. Representatives
- U.S. Delegates (American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands)
- U.S. Resident Commissioner (Puerto Rico)
- To use the FWAB, citizens should have applied for a state absentee ballot before the state's ballot request deadline.
- The FWAB may be used to vote for federal offices in primary, general, special, or runoff elections.
- Some states have expanded the use of the FWAB and accept the FWAB for voting for state and local offices, and/or allow the FWAB to be used for voter registration and ballot request. Please see state information in Chapter 2.
Tips for using the FWAB:
- Individuals who have not received a requested state absentee ballot in time to return it before the election should immediately complete and send the FWAB to their election office. FVAP recommends voters use a FWAB if they have not received their state absentee ballot within 30 days of the election.
- The FWAB must be received by the election office no later than the ballot return deadline for that election.
- The Voter Information page must be completed and the mailing envelope must be signed and dated.
Overseas citizen groups and local election officials are excellent resources and VAOs should partner with them to conduct voting events.
Conduct voter outreach events
Each regularly scheduled federal election year (every even-numbered year), FVAP works with the Uniformed Services and the Department of State to promote voter registration and absentee voting by conducting Voting Emphasis Weeks.
Armed Forces and Overseas Citizens Voters Week: June 28-July 5, 2020
Photos from successful Voters Week events can be found on our Facebook page. Do not forget to send yours to your SVAO!
Your goal: Deliver the FPCA to all Service members and their voting-age family members. Encourage everyone to fill out and submit the form immediately.
What you can do:
- Offer assistance in completing the form.
- Conduct nonpartisan voting workshops and registration drives. Invite election officials from your area to assist.
- Hang voting banners near installation entrances or display a voting slogan on installation marquees.
- Run voting Public Service Announcements (PSAs) at the installation theater.
- Put up posters with voter registration information in popular areas such as installation housing, gyms, commissaries and exchanges. Be sure to include your contact information.
- Use media outlets to encourage voter registration. Advertise events on Facebook and in installation newspapers.
- Plan your events around Independence Day.
Absentee Voting Week: September 27-October 4, 2020
Your goal: Encourage everyone to return their voted ballots immediately or use the FWAB.
What you can do:
- Ask voters if they have received their requested state absentee ballot. If they have not, give them a FWAB and provide assistance with completing the form as necessary.
- Use media outlets to encourage people to return their state absentee ballot or the FWAB. Run reminders and articles in installation newspapers.
- Enlist the help of other VAOs, local election officials or overseas citizen organizations to conduct events encouraging people to return their absentee ballots.
- Put up posters that tell people how to reach you for help. Hang voting banners near installation entrances or display a voting slogan on installation marquees.
- Run voting Public Service Announcements at the installation theater.
- Host unit or installation "Voting Days" where computer terminals are set up for the purpose of receiving, completing, printing, and returning ballots electronically, if permitted by their state.
Keep voting supplies on hand
These documents and other voting handouts (such as the Election Dates calendar) are available for download at
Maintaining an adequate supply of voting materials is an essential function of every VAO, even if you are using the FVAP Online Assistants. Voting materials include the FPCA and FWAB forms, motivational posters, voting banners, brochures, wallet cards, etc. To order materials, follow the instructions below.
VAOs are responsible for ensuring that all absentee voting materials are made available to Service members. The Army's specific instructions are:
- FPCA (SF 76) - Primary method of use should be by guiding absentee voters to use the online assistant at FVAP.gov; it will guide voters in creating a completed FPCA. Secondary method of use is via downloadable PDF, available at FVAP.gov.
- FWAB (SF 186) - Primary method of use should be by guiding absentee voters to use the online assistant at FVAP.gov; it will guide voters in creating a completed FWAB. Secondary method of use is via downloadable PDF, available online at FVAP.gov.
For CONUS, hard copies of all forms can be ordered through the APD website at https://www.apd.army.mil/ptclick/.
For OCONUS, orders will be sent to the overseas warehouse and can be ordered from your local pubs office in your area.
VAOs are responsible for ensuring that all absentee voting materials are made available to service members. The Navy's specific ordering instructions are:
- FPCA (SF 76) - Primary method of use should be by guiding absentee voters to use the online assistant at FVAP.gov; it will guide voters in creating a completed FPCA. Secondary method of use is via downloadable PDF, available at FVAP.gov. If the primary and secondary methods of use are not possible because of operational constraints or other extraneous circumstances, forms may be ordered from the Navy Logistics Library (NLL). Contact email@example.com prior to ordering to discuss circumstances.
- FWAB (SF 186) - Primary method of use should be by guiding absentee voters to use the online assistant at FVAP.gov; it will guide voters in creating a completed FWAB. Secondary method of use is via downloadable PDF, available online at FVAP.gov. If the primary and secondary methods of use are not possible because of operational constraints or other extraneous circumstances, forms may be ordered from the Navy Logistics Library (NLL). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org prior to ordering to discuss.
- Voting Assistance Guide (Guide) - Primary method of use should be online at FVAP.gov or downloadable PDF, as the guide is updated frequently throughout the election cycle. Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Offices will also have hard copies of the guide for reference.
- Marketing Materials - Posters, brochures, and wallet cards are provided to IVA offices to share with VAOs. Contact your local IVA Office to obtain these items. Additional copies of these items may be ordered from the NLL. Social Media banners, images, and video can be obtained from the Navy Voting toolkit or from the 'Navy Voting' Facebook page.
VAOs can order supplies online at https://wmsweb.afncr.af.mil/wms/.
- Login with CAC. Click on "Accounts" tab. "Associated Accounts" may be "Disabled" under the "Status" column.
- Click "View Details" and fill in User Details and click "Save" button. Click "Yes" button to confirm creating user access. Click "OK" button on account creation confirmation. Associated Account should now read "Enabled" in "Status" column.
- Click on "Shop Online." Enter "SF76" or "SF186" (or other materials short title name) in "Keywords" text box and click "Search" link to right.
- Click on magnifying glass to view details.
- Enter the quantity required and then click the "+" button to add to shopping cart. Click Arrow "Proceed To Checkout." Click on "Submit Order" link. REMOVE............................................................................................................................
- To check on your order, use the "Track Orders/Order History" link. For assistance, contact Air Force ePublishing at DSN 754-2438 or COMM 1-800-848-9577, 0730-1700 Eastern Time or by email at email@example.com.
- FPCA (SF 76) - Primary method of use should be by guiding absentee voters to use the online assistant at FVAP.gov; it will guide voters in creating a completed FPCA. Secondary method of use is via downloadable PDF, available at FVAP.gov. If the primary and secondary methods of use are not possible because of operational constraints or other extraneous circumstances, order hard copies (NSN 7540-00-634-5053) from Direct Support Stock Control outlets, GSA, or your unit supply via SABRS.
- FWAB (SF 186) - Primary method of use should be by guiding absentee voters to use the online assistant at FVAP.gov; it will guide voters in creating a completed FWAB. Secondary method of use is via downloadable PDF, available online at FVAP.gov. If the primary and secondary methods of use are not possible because of operational constraints or other extraneous circumstances, order hard copies (NSN 7540-01-218-4384) from Direct Support Stock Control outlets, GSA, or your unit supply via SABRS.
VAOs can order the following voting materials through your unit's publication manager (typically the S-1 office) via Marine Corps Publication Distribution System: Voting Assistance Guide (PCN: 10000662800); Motivational Poster (PCN:50100651000); Voting Banner (PCN: 50100652100).
Please provide the PCN or NSN numbers when requesting materials. For assistance, contact your Installation Voting Assistance Officer or the Service Voting Action Officer.
VAOs should use the online forms as much as possible. If the preference is to keep a stockpile of forms, you can order FPCAs and FWABs from General Services Administration (GSA) using the following data: SF 76, FPCA (NSN: 7540-00-634-5053): SF 186, FWAB (NSN 7540-01-218-4384)
The Voting Assistance Guide is also available online. However, you should receive a Voting Assistance Guide through DHS whenever a new edition is issued. If you do not receive a new Voting Assistance Guide, contact your Service Voting Action Officer.
VAOs can order FPCAs and FWABs through the normal General Services Administration (GSA) supply channel.
- For expedited service, please contact GSA's National Customer Service Center via email at NCSCcustomer.firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 800-488-3111.
- GSA requires the funding information, the stock number and the quantity. Use the following stock numbers: SF 76, FPCA (7540-00-634-5053); SF 186, FWAB (7540-01-218-4384).
You can order posters, brochures, wallet cards, and Voting Assistance Guides by sending an email request to email@example.com. Posters and Voting Assistance Guides are free while supplies last and are shipped by diplomatic pouch.
Overseas Citizens Organizations
Other organizations can order forms, posters, brochures, wallet cards, and Voting Assistance Guides by sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-800-438-VOTE (8683).
International toll-free numbers can be found in the Appendix or at
The Uniformed Services have extensive chains of command to provide voting support for military members and their families.
Installation Commanding Officer (CO)
The Installation Commander oversees voting assistance for the Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office. The IVA Office staff report directly to the Installation Commander while staffing the IVA Office. FVAP requests that Commanders make opening statements at FVAP workshops and facilitate travel arrangements for VAOs to attend workshops at surrounding installations.
Installation Voting Assistance Officer (IVAO)
The IVAO acts as a focal point on military installations in coordinating voting assistance support. IVAOs should maintain a roster of all unit VAOs on the installation, establish communications with VAOs, and provide necessary materials and support. IVAOs coordinate FVAP workshops with organizations from their installation and surrounding installations.
Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office Staff
These are people who staff the IVA Office. They provide assistance to military personnel, eligible family members, as well as civilian personnel and other civilians who have access to the office. They provide written instruction on voter registration and absentee ballot procedures and report directly to the installation commander. These individuals can be contacted with questions regarding local voting.
Legal Assistance Officer
This officer can be contacted with legal questions, such as determining voter residency. Often known as a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer.
Public Affairs/Information Officer
Contact this officer to ensure that voting information is included in installation or unit publications.
Inspector General (IG)
The IG is required by federal law to periodically review voting assistance programs to ensure compliance with DoD and Service directives and regulations.
Personnel/Human Resources Officer
Contact this officer to ensure that all newly reporting personnel and naturalized U.S. citizens are provided FPCAs and voting assistance.
Publications, Supply, or Distribution Officer
This officer ensures that VAOs receive FPCAs, FWABs and other voting materials.
These officers of exchanges, commissaries, special services activities, medical and dental facilities, education centers, family centers, etc. can coordinate the display of voting materials for Armed Forces Voters Week and Absentee Voting Week.
Other non-military support organizations that can assist in voter outreach
- Local election officials
- Veterans and service organizations, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Non commissioned Officers Association, and the League of Women Voters
- Civic groups, American Chambers of Commerce, colleges and universities, and support organizations for overseas US citizens
- Spousal organizations
Run your program
VAOs must not provide partisan voting information from candidates, political parties, or partisan organizations. Military VAOs may receive questions from voters regarding whether they can distribute and/or display partisan materials at the military installations. VAOs should consult their Commanding Officer for their interpretation of DoD Directive 1344.10 Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty, available online at FVAP.gov. Federally employed VAOs should refer to the Hatch Act, Title 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7321, link available online at FVAP.gov.
VAOs can advise citizens on locating information on candidates and issues using national, local and Service newspapers, magazines, radio, television, political party and campaign committee offices, overseas newspapers and periodicals, and state election websites.
Most VAO and IVA Office Continuity Folder documents can be downloaded in the VAO Continuity Folder section online at FVAP.gov.
Continuity of your program is important for you, your assistant, your organization, and your successor. Create and maintain a Continuity Folder for your reference and to ensure that your successor understands what he or she is supposed to do. It should provide basic details on absentee voting procedures and contain anything that may help your backup or successor. Your folder should also provide a quick orientation of VAO responsibilities. It can be in the form of a notebook, file folder, or an online community folder, so long as it is readily available to other VAOs and assistants.Your Continuity Folder should contain at a minimum:
Never include Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about individuals you have assisted!
Best practices include maintaining hard copies of inspectable documentation which may include training certificates, appointment letters, and a copy of your most recent metrics report.
- Your VAO Designation Letter (only military VAOs)
- Current FPCAs and FWABs
- Current Voting Assistance Guide (updates available online at
- Recent news releases
- Election Dates Calendar (during even-numbered years)
- Current State Department or Service guidance (directive, instruction, order, etc.)
- DoD Instruction 1000.04. (Federal Voting Assistance Program) and your Service Voting Action Plan
- Training materials and certificate from workshops
- Good ideas and lessons learned.
You can find all materials listed above in the VAO section of FVAP.gov or through your normal Service supply chain.
Your SVAO may also have Continuity Folder requirements, for more details, see your Service Voting Action Plan.