Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about absentee voting:
Questions for all UOCAVA voters
Do I have to be registered to vote absentee?
Registration requirements vary from State to State. Most States require you to complete an absentee ballot application to start the absentee voting process. FVAP encourages the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process as it is standardized for use across all States and territories and will extend your eligibility to receive a ballot for all federal elections in which you are eligible, based on State-specific guidelines. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
Where do I send my Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)?
Your request form must be completed, printed, signed, dated and sent directly to your election official. Some States allow you to fax or email your FPCA to your election office. Your election official is required to contact you if your form is rejected, but States differ in notifying voters of a successful application. We encourage you to contact your election official to confirm that your FPCA was successfully processed.
When mailing election materials to my State or territory, do I have to pay postage?
Within the U.S.: The hardcopy form is postage paid in U.S. mail. This information is included on the mailing envelope. If using an online version, an envelope template can be downloaded online at FVAP.gov.
Outside of the U.S.: The form is postage paid in U.S. mail, to include APO/FPO and diplomatic pouches. If using foreign postal systems, put the correct amount of local postage on the front of the envelope, in the top right corner.
What is a postmark and how do I make sure I get one?
A postmark is an official Postal Service imprint applied on the address side of a stamped piece of mail. A postmark indicates the location and date the Postal Service accepted a piece of mail. You may ask the mail clerk at the post office to apply a postmark to your piece of mail.
When is the best time to apply for an absentee ballot?
To ensure you continue to receive absentee ballots during your time away from your voting residence, be sure to submit a new FPCA every January and each time you change your address and at least 90 days prior to the election you want to vote in.
Must I submit a separate application for each election?
Under federal law, the FPCA (standard form SF 76) registers you to vote and requests absentee ballots for a minimum of all federal elections in the current calendar year. To ensure you continue to receive absentee ballots during your time away from your voting residence, be sure to submit a new FPCA every January and each time you change your address and at least 90 days prior to the election you want to vote in.
When should I receive my ballot? What happens if I do not receive a ballot from my local election office?
If you do not receive your absentee ballot from your State in time to return it to your election official to participate in the election, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB (SF 186) serves as a backup ballot for UOCAVA citizens. The FWAB can be used in all States to vote for federal offices (President/Vice President, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative and Delegate or Resident Commissioner). If you receive your State absentee ballot after submitting the FWAB, vote and return it as well. If both your State ballot and your FWAB are received by the deadline, only one will be counted.
What are absentee ballots? Do they only count in close elections?
The media often will report the projected outcome of the election before all of the ballots are counted. In a close election, the media may report that the outcome cannot be announced until after the absentee ballots are counted. However, all ballots, including absentee ballots, are counted in the final totals for every election - and every vote (absentee or in-person) counts the same.
Questions for Uniformed Services/Family Members
Can I vote absentee?
As a Uniformed Service member or eligible family member, your absentee voting rights are covered under UOCAVA. This means if you live outside your voting residence you can vote absentee in all federal elections.
My family members are not in the military; can they also vote absentee?
Yes - Eligible family members of military personnel may vote absentee. They should use the same Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) that members of the Uniformed Services and overseas citizens do, even when voting absentee Stateside.
How do I register to vote, or apply for an absentee ballot?
Registration requirements vary from State to State. FVAP encourages the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process as it is standardized for use across all States and territories and will extend your eligibility to receive a ballot for all federal elections in which you are eligible based on State-specific guidelines. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
I am on active duty. Am I allowed to participate in a political party caucus/convention under DoD Directive 1344.10?
DoD Directive 1344.10 states that active duty members may observe caucus/convention activities, but may not directly participate (to include making speeches). Some State parties hold caucuses to choose their candidate for nomination at their national convention. Some of these States may afford an opportunity for active duty personnel who are absent from their voting residence to vote in a caucus/convention. In this instance, the act of voting is acceptable provided it is done in a manner that does not violate the intent of Directive 1344.10 as stated above. If you remain unsure, we encourage you to contact a legal assistance or voting assistance officer before taking action. For more information on available tools to assist active duty personnel who wish to vote in a political party caucus while away from their voting residence, refer to the following websites for more information, Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.
Service members are reminded that active duty members cannot participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (except as a spectator when not in uniform), or make public speeches in the course thereof. This includes service in any official capacity or being listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club. Secondly, active duty members may not speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause. Third, active duty members are prohibited from participating in any formal group discussion (such as radio/TV interviews, or other public forums) as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause. Therefore, such official and active participation by active duty members as elected Party representatives is prohibited under the Directive.
Questions for Overseas Citizens
Can I vote absentee?
As a U.S. citizen residing overseas, your absentee voting rights are covered. This means if you live outside your voting residence you can vote absentee in all federal elections.
A growing number of States now allow U.S. citizens who were born abroad but never resided in the U.S. to vote using the address where a parent or other relative is eligible to vote. Visit FVAP.gov to see a current list of States that allow these U.S. citizens to vote.
If I do not maintain a legal residence in the U.S., what is my "legal State of residence"?
Your legal State of 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.
How do I register to vote, or apply for an absentee ballot?
Registration requirements vary from State to State. FVAP encourages the use of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to start the absentee voting process as it is standardized for use across all States and territories and will extend your eligibility to receive a ballot for all federal elections in which you are eligible based on State- specific guidelines. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form.
Can I register or vote in-person at the embassy or consulate?
No - U.S. elections are run at the State level and citizens must communicate directly with their election official to register, request a ballot and vote. Voting Assistance is available at most embassies and consulates to help in the completion of necessary forms. Be sure to account for submission and mail delivery time to ensure your forms are received by the State deadline.
Can my selection in Block 1 of the Federal Post Card Application or Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot affect my U.S. citizenship?
No - The U.S. Department of State confirms that residing abroad without a set date and intent to return to a particular State or to any State will not result in loss of U.S. citizenship. Selecting "I am a U.S. citizen residing outside the United States, and my return is not certain" will not result in loss of your U.S. citizenship.
Does voter registration affect my tax status?
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. When claiming a new legal residence or domicile, legal counsel should be consulted because there may be other factors to consider, such as tax implications.
I am an overseas citizen and my state is holding a caucus. How can I find out more information on how to participate??
To find out more information on available methods of participation in a caucus, we encourage you to contact the national political party headquarters such as the Republican National Committee or Democratic National Committee.
Questions for Election Officials
Can the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) be used by citizens within the United States?
Yes - Uniformed service members who are absent from their voting residence due to their service and their family members who are absent with them may use the FPCA and FWAB even if they are currently within the United States. All other citizens within the United States should follow traditional State voter registration and absentee ballot request procedures.
How can I look up a voter's address?
FVAP is able to look up active duty military members' addresses for election officials. Election officials should submit requests to FVAP via email (email@example.com) or fax (800-368-8683) and include the name of the requester, the voting jurisdiction, as well as the citizen's full name, date of birth, and the last four digits of his/her Social Security number.
What if a UOCAVA covered voter from another State wants to apply for a ballot using an FPCA through our office?
If a UOCAVA voter that resides in another State wants to apply for an FPCA through your office, you can provide the voter with a blank form but should clarify that he/she will need to submit the form and cast a ballot in the voter's home State of residence. Voters who are not clear on this information can visit the www.FVAP.gov website which provides step-by-step instructions on filling out the FPCA for all 55 States and territories.
What assistance can we provide the voter that has not received a ballot?
If a voter has requested an absentee ballot but has not received one close to Election Day, the voter can fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). This backup ballot can be found on the voter's specific State landing pages online at FVAP.gov.
Who is covered under UOCAVA?
U.S. Citizens, 18 years of age or older, who is an active duty member of the Armed Forces, Merchant Marine, Public Health Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Corps, eligible family members (U.S. citizens, 18 years or older) of military personnel or a U.S. Citizen residing outside the United States are covered by UOCAVA.
Can a person who was born overseas to U.S. parents, and has never lived in the U.S. still participate in the election process?
Yes, some States allow children of military personnel or U.S. citizens residing overseas, but who have never resided in the U.S., to claim one of their U.S. citizen parents' legal State of residence as their own. FVAP has a current list of States that allow these citizens to vote absentee: http://www.fvap.gov/citizen-voter/reside.
What is a "voting residence"?
For voting purposes, "voting residence" can be the State or territory where the voter last resided prior to entering military service OR the State or territory that the voter has since registered to vote in. Even though the voter may no longer maintain formal ties to that residence, the address determines the voter's proper voting jurisdiction. Military personnel and their eligible family members may change their voting residence when they change their permanent duty stations, or they may retain their voting residence without change. This may mean that the family's Uniformed Service member has a different voting residence than his/her family members.
Can a voter cast a ballot in-person where he/she is stationed?
Military members may vote in the U.S. State or territory where stationed if they change their voting residence to that State or territory, even if they live on a military installation. These voters are not entitled to the legal protections provided by UOCAVA because they are not absent from their voting residence.
How does FVAP provide UOCAVA voters with information on upcoming elections in their States?
FVAP offers electronic Voter Alerts that are timely emails that keep local election officials and voters informed about election dates, important deadlines throughout the absentee voting process, changes to State laws that affect how voters may request and cast their ballots, and other crucial absentee voting information.
Should I process FPCAs received after the MOVE Act's 45-day deadline for sending ballots?
Yes. You should process all FPCAs submitted before your State's absentee ballot request deadline for UOCAVA voters and send out a ballot as quickly as possible.
Which should I count if a voter submitted both a State absentee ballot and a FWAB?
When both a State absentee ballot and a FWAB are submitted prior to the State ballot-receipt deadline, the State absentee ballot should be counted.
Why did a voter write in candidates for State and local offices on the FWAB?
In addition to voting in federal elections, some States allow UOCAVA voters to use the FWAB to vote in State and local elections. Check your State's guidelines for information on which elections military, their eligible family members and overseas voters may participate.
Can the MOVE Act's 45-day deadline be moved from Saturday to Monday?
No - The 45-day deadline for a Tuesday election will fall on a Saturday; there is no provision in federal law for that deadline to slip to the next business day.
Can the postage-paid indicia be used for international mail?
UOCAVA balloting materials can be sent as free postage paid via First-Class Mail as authorized by 39 USC 3406 by election officials to all UOCAVA citizens. These balloting materials include the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), and State balloting materials, including letters acknowledging registration and State absentee ballots.
How can I use the Electronic Transmission Service (ETS)?
FVAP's ETS service enables election officials to transmit and receive election materials via fax to and from UOCAVA citizens at no cost. Election officials fax the materials to FVAP's toll-free fax number and FVAP will fax the election materials to the voter. FVAP also provides a fax-to-email conversion if the voter does not have a fax machine available.
The contact information for this service is:
ETS Toll-Free Fax Number: 1-800-368-8683
ETS Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
ETS Technical Support: 1-800-438-8683
DISCLAIMER: The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) provides an Electronic Transmission Service (ETS) to assist you with transmitting your election materials. FVAP does not guarantee the acceptance or processing of your materials by your election official. As a user of this service, we encourage you to contact your election official directly to verify whether your information was received timely.
How can I get a ballot to a voter that has an email address that removes PDFs and hyperlinks?
Some governmental email servers remove hyperlinks and attachments. Try getting an alternative email address from the voter as a backup. The Department of Defense has a file transfer service that can be used to save a file securely to someone with a (.mil) or (.gov) email address. Contact FVAP at email@example.com or 1-800-438-VOTE (8683) for more information.
Does FVAP have any information for processing UOCAVA voting materials including the FPCA and the FWAB forms?
Yes, FVAP offers an online Election Official Training course, a Quick Reference Guide for processing FPCA or FWAB forms, and resources for sending UOCAVA Ballots. They can be found in the Election Official section online at FVAP.gov.