How to Determine Your Voting Residency
Service Members and Their Family
What is a voting residence and why is it important?
Your voting residence is within your state of legal residence or domicile. It is the address that you consider your permanent home and where you had a physical presence. Your state of legal residence is used for state income tax purposes, and determines eligibility to vote for federal and state elections and qualification for in-state tuition rates.
State of legal residence and voting residence are sometimes mistaken for home of record. While your voting residence may be the same as your home of record at the beginning of your military career, you need to update your voting residence if you change your legal residence or domicile at any point.
To claim a new legal residence or domicile, consult your legal counsel or military legal assistance office, as there may be other factors to consider, such as tax implications.
You may only have one legal voting residence at a time.
Service members, your voting residence should be within the state listed on your Leave and Earnings Statement, which defines your state for withholding state taxes.
Don't confuse voting residence with home of record. Your home of record is the place you lived when you entered the military. It does not change while you are on active duty. Your voting residence may be the same as your home of record but needs to be updated if and when you decide to establish a new state of legal residence.
Your state of legal residence is not automatically changed when you are assigned to a new duty location.
It may be changed with your approval by submitting the appropriate paperwork to your finance officer. However, you should first consult legal counsel.
You have the option to establish residency or domicile each time you are transferred to a new location. Once you change your residence or domicile, you may not revert to a previous residence without re-establishing a new physical presence according to residency laws of that state.
Spouses and eligible family members
You may retain the same residence or domicile that your Service member has established even if you have not physically been present at that address, according to the Dec. 31, 2018 amendment to the Military Spouse Residency Relief ACT (MSRRA). Or you may choose to retain your established residency or domicile (if different from your sponsor).
MSRRA still does not permit you to choose any state; you or your Service member must have established residency in a state. Ways to do this may include voting, paying taxes, owning property, holding a driver's license, or registering a vehicle. Residency requirements vary by state. Consult legal counsel to discuss tax implications and other effects of MSRRA.
As a military spouse, you can:
- Retain your sponsor's or Service member's residency or domicile.
- Keep your current, established residency or domicile.
- Take the appropriate steps to establish a new residency or domicile.
Some children turn 18 while their family is stationed overseas. To vote, they should use the last U.S. address they had before departing to the current duty station.
Citizens Residing Outside the U.S.
What is a voting residence and why is it important?
You need a voting residence to vote by absentee ballot — even if you are only voting for federal offices. Your election office needs your exact voting residence address to determine which offices and candidates you are eligible to vote for — and to send you the appropriate ballot for your voting precinct.
Your voting residence is your address in the state in which you were last domiciled, immediately prior to leaving the United States.
This residence may remain valid even if:
- You no longer own property or have other ties to that state.
- Your intent to return to that state is uncertain.
- Your previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.
Voting in an election for federal offices often may not be used as the sole basis of determining residency for the purpose of imposing state and local taxes.
If you cannot remember the address where you last physically resided, check old tax records, passports, or family correspondence. Sometimes election offices can help identify your address if you were previously registered.
To claim a new legal residence or domicile, consult legal counsel as there may be other factors to consider, such as tax implications.
Voting residence and the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)
It is important to remember that your voting residence address listed on the FPCA must be an address in the United States. Placing an overseas address in Section 2 of the form may automatically disqualify you.
Children born outside the U.S.
Voting rights vary by state for U.S. citizens born overseas who have never established residence in the United States. In some states, U.S. citizens 18 years or older who were born abroad but have never resided in the U.S. are eligible to vote absentee.
If neither of your parents is from one of these states, it is possible that you do not currently have voting rights. However, additional states are working to pass legislation to allow citizens born overseas who have never established residency in the U.S. to vote in the state in which their parents are eligible.
Students studying abroad
If you are living overseas for an extended period during an election season and will need to vote absentee, use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to request your absentee ballot. Your voting residence will continue to be your last residence prior to leaving the United States to study abroad.