American overseas voters whose states require their 2020 Primary and General Election ballots to be mailed face new obstacles due to problems caused by Covid-19 in the delivery of mail by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to certain countries. Israel was on the Suspension Due to Unavailability of Transportation List on April 24th and removed on May 7th. We do not know if there will be a 2nd wave of Covid-19 this fall or winter that will affect the USPS.
What about mailing from the country where you live? FAQs specific to the Coronavirus situation and Postal Service might change. Can the Postal Service ensure both military and non-military voting ballots are delivered from foreign countries? The Postal Service is working with the Federal Election Commission, Military Postal administrators, and local election officials to ensure all military and non-military voting ballots are transmitted to the voters overseas and returned back timely to the individual voting jurisdictions. This is a continuous process for the Postal Service to ensure all mailed votes are counted.
Is there a quarantine for international mail coming to the US and if so, how long? The Postal Service is not embargoing mail coming into the United States. We have been notified by numerous international Posts that they are not allowing mail to enter or exit their countries. Alerts are posted on the International page of the USPS Service Alerts website
Reaching out to Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), they responded quickly and were aware of the problem. “We understand that your local mail options are limited as a result of coronavirus. FVAP encourages overseas citizens to take these individual actions to help overcome any potential disruptions to host country mail operations:
- Register and request your ballot through FVAP.gov: Use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) at FVAP.gov to simultaneously register and request an absentee ballot. Almost all states will allow you to return the FPCA to your election office by EMAIL.
- On the FPCA, consider requesting that your ballot be sent to you electronically: Voters in countries currently experiencing, or likely to experience, mail disruptions should select an electronic option for receiving their blank ballot from their election official in section 5 of the FPCA.
- Consider state ballot submission alternatives:Refer to your state’s instructions on FVAP.gov for available options for returning your voted ballot. Many states allow voters to submit ballots by EMAIL or FAX.”
Another option that FVAP provides is an email-to-fax service for voters of states that accept voting materials only by FAX or MAIL. In this case, voters from the states of California, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Texas, and Alaska can email their completed ballots to email@example.com and a member of the FVAP team will fax these ballots to the appropriate election offices on behalf of the voters.
Voters from states that only accept the ballot by MAIL will need to use either a private mail courier that might cost $78, or the diplomatic pouch at a local US embassy or consulate. According to FVAP’s counterparts at the Department of State, the diplomatic pouch is still operational, albeit less frequent. Diplomatic pouch at your local US embassy or consulate should be explored.
“For citizens who are voting in states that require ballots to be mailed, they can drop off their ballot at the US Embassy in Jerusalem or at the US Embassy Branch Office by emailing JerusalemACS@state.gov or TelAvivACS@state.gov for an appointment. Citizens can also submit their ballot to their home state through a courier service. These instructions are on our website.”
The Embassy strongly encourages citizens to submit ballots to their home state by email or fax if it is allowed in their state. Expect to see more public messaging from the Embassy regarding voting in future.
FVAP encourage overseas citizens to contact their election offices regarding the status of their voting materials. For the latest alerts on international mail service, voters and election officials should refer to the USPS alerts.
As overseas voters we have a government team that is there for us. FVAP does respond!! They also continue to work with their federal partners, and with state election officials to confirm and report changes to election dates and deadlines, and any other information impacting the UOCAVA overseas voting process.
FVAP is tracking the impact of the coronavirus pandemic 2019 (COVID-19) on Service members, their eligible family members, and U.S. citizens abroad, when voting absentee during the remainder of the 2020 election cycle. It is advised for voters to check the latest information on COVID-19
As overseas voters we can make a difference, only if more than 6.9% of us vote. We can HIRE or FIRE elected officials. Today states have many of us jumping hoops to return our ballots. Tomorrow might be different if we vote, and by speaking up to our state’s representatives who make the election laws. It would be a lot easier to use electronic submission via email, fax, online, or phone voter app.
YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE
“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” George Jean Nathan