How to Be a VAO

How to Serve as a Voting Assistance Officer

As a Voting Assistance Officer, you take the time and make the effort to ensure your military and overseas voters can cast their ballots successfully — from all over the world.

You may provide voting assistance for the Uniformed Services, State Department or other federal agency, or a civic organization. FVAP is here to make your job easier.

Here's how the absentee voting process works behind the scenes for citizens protected by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA):


A citizen registers to vote and requests an absentee ballot by submitting the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) to the election office.

The election office verifies the voter's eligibility and either accepts or rejects the FPCA.

If the voter is eligible, the election office sends an absentee ballot at least 45 days before a federal election.


The voter completes the ballot and sends it back to the election office by the deadline.

If the ballot doesn't arrive in time to send it back before the deadline, the voter can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) as a back-up ballot.

The election office received and counts the ballot.

The voter can check that the ballot was received by contacting their election office.


Here's how to explain the process to your voters.


Don't let your voters miss a deadline!

Subscribe to Voter Alerts
Subscribe to Voter Alerts
Subscribe to Voter Alerts
Subscribe to Voter Alerts



VAOs Serving Military Members:

VAOs for the Uniformed Services serve at the installation and unit levels. Installation Voting Assistance Officers (IVAOs) are appointed by Installation COs and typically man the Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office. Unit VAOs provide voting assistance within a unit to further assist the IVAO. As a military VAO, you are responsible for some crucial tasks (and FVAP can help with each):


Here's everything we have to offer:

Access training online or in-person for VAOs in the military and State Department.

Refer to the Voting Assistance Guide for everything you need to know about military and overseas absentee voting.

Find election forms — like the FPCA and FWAB — and tools for sending.

Promote the assistance you offer to your voters with voter outreach and education resources.

Check out outstanding voting assistance from the VAO of the Quarter and nominate your colleagues.


Review the official requirements and guidelines for VAOs, including Voting Action Plans from FVAP and your Service.

Prepare your Continuity Folder as a resource for your successor (hint: it's required!).

Find the Service Voting Action Officer (SVAO) for your Military Service or the Department of State.

Learn about the voting assistance requirements for military recruiters.