Whether you are a member of the Armed Forces or a private citizen residing in Sweden, the voting process is almost the same. In fact, the process is the same for any U.S. citizen living in a foreign country. Many people believe that by simply visiting the local Embassy in Stockholm, they would be able to cast their vote in the state or federal elections in America. Unfortunately, however, it is not quite that easy.
The voting process is handled on a state-by-state basis in America, which means that one must apply directly to the state that they want to vote in. As the U.S. Embassy is connected to the federal government, they do not have the capabilities to act as representatives of the individual states. What does this mean for an American voter living in Sweden? It means that the registrant must contact the state directly that they wish to vote in, and to sign up as a resident of that state.
It is not possible to register with any state, unfortunately. For many different reasons, a person is only allowed to register to vote in a state that they have, or have had a permanent address in. Even if a U.S. citizen has been away from the state for a very long time, the applicant must still use the last known address and the last state that was lived in, in order to register.
Once residency can be confirmed in a particular state, the process can continue. It is important to remember that not all states follow the same rules regarding what qualifies as residency. So, depending on the state that the voter is from and registering in, there can be different requirements that the potential voter must adhere to. An example of how different some of the requirements are is that some states do not even require that you have ever lived in the U.S., although the number of these states is low. In these select few states, as long as the U.S. citizen living abroad has a relative living in the U.S., he or she may use the relative’s permanent address for the voter registration.
The process for successfully casting an absentee vote involves three steps. The first step is to apply. To do this, the registrant must fill out a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which is essentially a request to be allowed to vote and be registered with a particular state. The second step is for the election officials to review your application and decide if they can approve it. Once they have OK’d the FPCA, the registrant is automatically registered to vote, and the absentee ballot is sent back to the applicant. The third step is to vote using the absentee ballot sent. Once the vote has been cast, the ballot is sent back to the election officials.
U.S. citizens living in Sweden can find information regarding the absentee voting process by navigating to “U.S. Citizen Services” on the U.S. Embassy in Sweden’s website, and then selecting “Voting” under the category entitled “Federal Benefits”. The Internet site for the U.S. Consulate in Sweden is very helpful for potential voters. Not only does it have a very clearly laid out action plan for would-be voters, it also provides all of the necessary links to the Federal Voter Assistance Program website as well, which is definitely worth a look. There is also a very useful FAQ, which is easy to access, as well as contact information in case of any trouble understanding the material on offer. Apart from making access to the required documentation and information convenient, they also post information about upcoming elections and voting deadlines, which is especially useful due to the time-sensitive nature of the absentee ballot process.