If you are an American democrat living abroad, it is usually very easy to have your vote counted. Voting is considered to be one of the unalienable rights of the citizens of the United States, and the government works hard to provide the opportunity to vote to all its citizens, whether at home or abroad.
Before voting abroad there are a few things that you must be aware of. The first is that a voter cannot vote at the U.S. Consulate. The embassy can, and does, provide U.S. citizens with information regarding the process on their website, but a voter must apply separately through a different organization. Another thing to keep in mind is that to register to vote one must register directly with the state that they last lived in. There are different rules and exceptions for the various states, and each state has different deadlines for when you can send in your ballot. So the prospective voter must carefully review the rules and guidelines specific to the state in which they last resided.
To apply for the absentee voter card, the U.S. citizen living abroad must visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website in order to register to vote in their state. The steps are broken down into three main stages. The first phase for the applicant is to fill out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which serves two purposes: the FPCA both registers the applicant to vote in the specified state, and requests that the absentee ballot is sent to the applicant. Once that process has been completed, the local election official will review the application. If everything is in order with the FPCA, an absentee ballot is sent to the prospective voter. The third and final step in the process is the actual voting. The absentee ballot is filled in with the voter’s choices and then it is sent back to the election officials.
Be aware of deadlines
The process is simple enough. However, there are a couple of things that the potential voter should keep in mind. Depending on the state that he or she has registered to vote in, the deadlines for receiving the FPCA and the absentee ballot can vary widely. It is imperative that applications and ballots are sent in well before the deadlines to ensure that enough time for delivery has been given. If by chance, the voter has sent in the FPCA on time but did not receive the absentee ballot on time to cast a vote, there is a failsafe in place.
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) is used for people who are not able to follow the typical process, or for applicants that do not have enough time to send in the standard version of the absentee ballot. Keep in mind, however, that the failure to submit everything on time must not be the fault of the voter. To use this emergency ballot, the voter must either print out a PDF form or use the online wizard, both of which are found on fvap.gov, and then mail the ballot in for it to be counted.