Voting is a fundamental right for U.S. citizens, unfortunately some overseas individuals don’t know how to go about the process and so their voices may go unheard. It’s election year. The upcoming election will include the presidency, 34 seats in the U.S. Senate, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
According to the FVAP website, elections are managed individually by 50 states, U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia. This means there are 55 different sets of rules for overseas citizens, but the basic steps are simple.
- Register to vote via Absentee Ballot Request before your state’s deadline.
- If available request your ballot to be emailed to you.
- Follow up to make sure you are registered.
- Ballots are sent out 45 days before the election. If you are registered and don’t receive your ballot, you can vote via a Federal Write In Ballot
- Don’t wait to submit your ballot. Be proactive to make sure your ballot is received before your state’s deadline.
Do you know when your state’s primary is? Many state primary election dates are fast approaching, so now is the time for overseas voters to make sure they are registered to vote via an Absentee Ballot.
Presidential primaries: Feb. 11 in New Hampshire, and Feb. 29 in South Carolina. There’s still time to register to vote and request an absentee ballot for the New Hampshire primary. Jan. 30, was the deadline for registering to vote in the Democratic primary in South Carolina. But you can submit the Federal Post Card Application (FCPA) in South Carolina by email, online, fax, as well as by mail. Absentee Ballot Request allows you to register to vote as well as request an absentee ballot, which is the case for all states. In South Carolina, registered voters can request their absentee ballot by the day of the primary, Feb. 29; the deadline for returning the ballot by email, fax or mail is 7 p.m. Feb. 29.
Dates for states’ primaries vary. Another 15 states and America Samoa will have primary elections on March 3. For your state’s required registration and ballot return information, NASS (National Association of Sec of States) created a nonpartisan website by state election officials to help eligible voters figure out how and where to go vote. https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote
States’ deadlines also vary for registering to vote and requesting ballots. Many states allow you to return ballots via email, online, fax, voter phone app, or regular mail. If your state requires you to return ballots to local election officials by mail, you can do so through international mail, professional courier service, or you may also drop off completed voting materials at your local US Embassy. Their diplomatic pouch provides free mail service from embassies and consulates to a U.S. sorting facility. You will need to place your ballots in postage paid return envelopes or in envelopes bearing sufficient U.S. postage, in order for them to be delivered to the proper local election authorities.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has provided the following information for Americans living in Israel. If using the diplomatic pouch, in Jerusalem, ballots can also be dropped off at the U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, American Citizen Services section from 8:00AM to 3:00PM Monday to Friday, or during otherwise scheduled appointments. In Tel Aviv, ballots can be dropped off to the Embassy Branch Office Tel Aviv, American Citizen Services section from 8:00AM to 11:00AM and 1:00PM to 3:00PM Monday to Friday, or during otherwise scheduled appointments. All visitors to the Embassy are subject to security screening and you will not be permitted to bring electronic devices, including cell phones, inside the facility.
It can take up to four weeks for mail to reach its destination if sent by an embassy or consulate via diplomatic pouch. All overseas U.S. citizens are advised to submit their forms and ballots accordingly.
If you miss your state’s primaries, you can still vote in the November general election. To make sure you can vote in the November election, it is suggested you request your Absentee Ballot no later than July or August to allow plenty of time for processing, and time to return their “voted” ballot.
Even if you voted in previous federal elections, you should send in your Absentee Ballot Request early this year, to ensure you receive the absentee ballot for all the federal elections, and to make sure your information is current. If you don’t know if you are registered, it is easy to find out your voting status. https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote/voter-registration-status
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE. By voting you can hire or fire elected officials. By not voting, you are allowing other to speak for you. Freedom gives us choices. Speak or be silent.