Reminder to Americans Overseas, Now Is the Time to Register for November

U.S. citizens can vote even when living abroad. 
FVAP sponsors the multipart Overseas Citizen Population Analysis (OCPA) biennially in conjunction with each federal election cycle.
As a US citizen living or studying outside the country, you can vote absentee while living away from your voting residence.

If we don’t vote, we are ignoring history and giving away the future.” – Pat Mitchell

Americans living overseas have more hurdles to jump in voting than Americans living within the country.  The biggest anxiety is returning the ballot.  Will there be a delay in the mail, or how secure are the other methods of voting:  email, fax, web portal, or phone app?

Twenty states require ballots to be returned via “snail mail”.  The question is whether the USPS is able to handle both domestic and overseas mailed ballots?  Seven of the 10 most populated states in the United States require overseas and military ballots to be returned ONLY by mail:  Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, and Michigan.  States are changing their laws for domestic voters; however only Missouri changed their law for overseas and military voters for the primary and hopefully for the General Election.

Voters who are required to return their ballots via mail, might find themselves with two possible major issues with the United States Postal Service (USPS) which was founded in 1775.   Due to COVID-19, the USPS has temporarily suspended international mail to certain destinations.  Israel was on their Suspension list and removed on May 7th.  As we go into the fall season, will COVID-19 increase the risk of countries closing their borders due to the increase of the coronavirus?  If planes stop flying, it can cause the delay or return of mail.  No one has a crystal ball.  Overseas voters who want their votes to be counted need to be proactive and return their ballots immediately upon receipt.  Please visit  FVAP.gov/COVID-19 for the latest information on any international postal disruptions

The USPS denied overseas voters their constitutional right to vote by returning their ballots in the 2018 election and 2020 primaries. (Photo courtesy of Federal Voting Assistance Program FVAP https://www.fvap.gov/)

An issue that is outside a voter’s control is the return of ballots by the USPS claiming, “Return to Sender.  Not deliverable as addressed.  Unable to forward.”  Ballots enclosed in envelopes with the pre-printed address of election department were not accepted.  In each case the address was correct. The USPS denied overseas voters their constitutional right to vote by returning their ballots in the 2018 election and 2020 primaries.  

“Regarding the international postal system, I, for one, grade that system with an “F” because my mailed ballot was returned to me, whereas my husband’s ballot, addressed and mailed in the same official envelope exactly like mine, was not returned to him; so his vote was counted, presumably – and I say “presumably” because there was never any confirmation of receipt. And that surely is another major flaw in the current system.”  MJ from Israel

“Just when you think you’ve done everything right; the USPS returns your ballot as undeliverable as addressed.  The address was correct and provided by my county voter office.”  Voter from Pennsylvania

“I’m a registered NY County overseas voter who mailed my absentee ballot for the spring primary on May 13, 2020 from the Migdal Shalom Post Office (a major Tel Aviv branch). The ballot was returned to me with a sticker claiming that it is “undeliverable as addressed, unable to forward” despite having been mailed in the pre-printed mailer provided by the Board of Elections itself.

As lifelong voter, I am horrified at this official negligence on the part of the postal service. I trust everything possible will be done to rectify the situation in good time before the general election that is less than three months away.”

Recently, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified before the Democrat-led House Oversight Committee.  He defended the US Postal Service’s ability to handle an influx of mail-in ballots this November and downplayed the impact of changes he’s made since taking over the Postal Service in June.

”The American public can rely on the United States Postal Service to fulfill our role in the electoral process. We provide a secure, efficient and effective way for citizens to participate when policymakers decide to use mail as part of their elections. We have a robust and tested process for proper handling and timely delivery of Election Mail. Due to COVID-19, there’s been an increase in the number of jurisdictions expanding or initiating mail-in voting options. Our national education effort keeps local and state election officials informed about mailing procedures and our operational standards. We’re also educating the public about how to successfully use the mail.”  USPS Website

“The USPS is aware of the problems and it now up to overseas voters to make sure your ballot is received before the November 3rd election. Failing to follow USPS recommendations will increase the risk your ballot will not be delivered in time to be counted.  It’s your responsibility to understand that the due dates the state sets aren’t realistic for the post office to deliver.”  USPS

As an American living overseas, do you want to vote in the November 3rd General Election?  Absentee ballots will be on their way on or about September 19th, but it’s not too late for voters to register and request theirs. 

There are minor concerns over registering and receiving a ballot which are within the voter’s control. If you have not registered and want to vote, now is the time: not tomorrow or next week.  Each state has their own deadline and if you want to vote November 3rd, you need to follow your states guidelines.  Some voters assume that once they have registered, they will automatically receive their ballot.  Doesn’t always happen.

Register and request your absentee ballot via email by using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) today. (Photo courtesy of Federal Voting Assistance Program FVAP https://www.fvap.gov/)

 

Register and request your absentee ballot via email by using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) today to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. It is very easy to fill out your form online, save, print, sign, and transmit according to instructions.  Most states give voters the option to send the FPCA by mail, fax or email.  Rather than trust the mail system, if you have the option to fax your Absentee Ballot Request and don’t have a fax, the Department of Defense offers a Fax Service.  Email your ballot to fax@fvap.gov,  along with a Transmission Cover Sheet, and they will fax your ballot to your Election Office.  This way you don’t have to worry about the mail system.

Submitting your Absentee Ballot Request does not mean you are registered.  Maybe your election department had a question, or would not accept your form.  It is suggested your check your voter registration approximately 10 days after you submitted your Absentee Ballot Request.

Ballots will be sent out on or about September 19th.  If you want to make sure your overseas ballot is counted, it is advisable to return immediately; especially if you have to mail your ballot.  Rather than mail, you might consider a courier service.  Many states understand the cost issue and will allow multiple ballots in an envelope, as long as the ballots and oaths are packaged according to the instructions and going to the same county voter registration office.  If you plan to use a courier service with multiple ballots, it is advised that you verify it is permitted by your Election Official. Remember Election Departments will be extremely busy with domestic mail-in ballots the closer you get to the November 3rd.

What can you do if you are registered and don’t receive your ballot? No need to panic, a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) can be used as a backup ballot, if needed.   If you receive your State ballot after submitting the FWAB, you should still complete and return it, as well.  States will only count one ballot per person.

Voting from overseas does have hurdles to jump; however, it is possible for voters to taking control by leapfrogging forward!!

YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE

YOU CAN HIRE OR FIRE ELECTED OFFICIALS

BY NOT VOTING YOU ALLOW OTHERS TO SPEAK FOR YOU

About the Author
Andee Goldman moved to Israel in 2006 from Las Vegas, Nevada. Since 2008, as a nonpartisan, she has volunteered helping Americans overseas to vote in America's Federal Elections. YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote As an Israeli, she has become a history buff and enjoys sharing her experience and travels around Israel and the world!! Andee is available to answer your voting questions at votingfromabroad@gmail.com
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