22 September 2020
The AFE Guide to Military Absentee Voting

Absentee Voting in the 2020 General Election can be a confusing process, so we’re here to help service members and their families make sure their votes count this November.

Tuesday, September 22 is National Voter Registration day, but for military voters and their families stationed overseas, it’s essential to apply for your ballot as soon as possible in order to meet the recommended vote-by date of October 22.

Voter registration is more important than ever, as states adapt their voting policies around COVID-19.
At the same time, social distancing measures, mailing delays, and office closures have made it difficult for many voters from getting registered in their communities and installations. But we’re here to help make the process easier!
Whether you’re stationed at a military installation outside the US, floating in a ship at sea, or living here in the good ol’ USA, we want to make sure that you’re all set to cast your ballot for the November 3rd election.

How to Vote Absentee as a Military Service Member or Overseas U.S. Citizen

As an active-duty servicemember, military spouse, or family member, you can vote using an absentee ballot while living away from your voting residence.
Voting absentee is an easy two-step process: first, you need to register and request your ballot by mail using an FPCA form, and secondly, you need to complete and send your ballot to your local election office as soon as your ballot arrives. The recommended vote-by date is October 13, 2020.

Whether you’re a first-time Absentee Voter, or if you simply need a refresher on how to do it, here’s how it works:
Step 1: Register to vote and request your ballot with an FPCA

  • The FPCA is a Federal Post Card Application which allows you to register to vote and request your application by mail. Using the FPCA ensures you receive your ballot at least 45 days before the election, so be sure to request your ballot as soon as possible.
  • You will need a printer in order to fill out and mail your FPCA to your designated election office.
  • Confused about where to send your FPCA? Determine your voting residence here, or visit your local State/Territory election websites here.
  • Deadline: Deadlines vary by state of voting residence. Ballots are sent out beginning in early October, so send your FPCA as soon as possible if you want your vote to be counted.

Step 2: Fill out and send your ballot as soon as you receive it.

  • Know your state’s absentee deadline. The recommended federal vote-by date for absentee ballots is October 22nd, but deadlines vary by state.

Here are the official recommended deadlines for casting an absentee ballot from overseas, some state deadlines may vary. Source: FVAP.gov

Don’t Think You’ll Receive your Absentee Ballot in Time for the Election? Use a FWAB

If you are a service member or an eligible spouse or dependent living overseas, and you don’t think you will be able to receive your ballot in time for the election, the good news is that you have a backup.
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) is an emergency backup ballot for uniformed and overseas citizens who did not receive an absentee ballot from their state in time to participate in the election.
Remember: it is always better to vote via the Federal Post Card Application, but the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot is there to ensure that your vote can be counted.
Be aware: the following states will still require you to register and request an absentee ballot with an FPCA before filling out a FWAB: AL, AS, AR, CT, FL, GU, HI, ID, IL, IN, KS, LA, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, PR, RI, SD, TX, WI, WV, and WY.
If your state or territory is listed here, complete a Federal Post Card Application online at FVAP.gov.

Never resided in the US?

Most states allow U.S. Citizens born abroad to vote using an absentee ballot. If you or a family member were born outside the United States, and have never held residence in the United States, you may be eligible. Check here for a full list of states where you can check eligibility.

Need Local Assistance? Contact Your Local Installation Voter Assistance Office

Voting Assistance Officers (VAOS) work to ensure that military and overseas voters can cast their ballots successfully and securely from all over the world. If you’re having trouble voting for any reason, contact your local IVA office to get help.
Interested in a higher calling for civic duty? Volunteer for your local IVA Office by becoming a Voting Assistance Officer!

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