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Americans Voting From Overseas

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Recent article in NY Times  below.  Surprised at the low voter participation by overseas residents....only 7% (the participation rate in 2016 by domestic voters was 60.2%).  


Are You an American Voting From Abroad? Here’s How to Do It

The pandemic has made it more complicated to vote from overseas this year, so it’s best to do it early. Voters from some states need to be extra careful.

By Jennifer Jett    Aug. 28, 2020

Americans in the United States aren’t the only ones worried about how they’ll vote this year.

According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, there are 2.9 million Americans eligible to vote from abroad. But their turnout is consistently low — about 7 percent in the last presidential election in 2016, compared with 60.2 percent domestically. And because of the pandemic, overseas voters face even more obstacles than usual, including global mail disruptions, embassy closures and personal dislocation.

It’s still worth making the effort.

“Americans overseas are impacted by U.S. legislation, and they often don’t have a voice because even though we’re large in number, we are scattered,” said Kym Kettler-Paddock, communications director for Republicans Overseas. “But the more that we vote, the more people pay attention to our issues regardless of party.”

Absentee ballots have decided close races in the past, and this year will be no different, said Julia Bryan, global chairwoman of Democrats Abroad.

“People’s votes count, and we vote in consequential places,” she said. “There’s a lot of swing states that we’re sending our votes back to.”

It might take a bit more planning this year, but Americans abroad can still ensure they cast votes in November. Here’s how to do it.

Request your ballot as early as possible — like, today.

If you’re an overseas voter, it’s good practice to fill out a Federal Post Card Application at the start of each calendar year to ensure you’re on the rolls for all primary, general and special elections in your state. (Overseas Americans generally vote in the state where they last lived, even if they no longer have any ties to that location.) But if you haven’t done that yet, it’s not too late.

The F.P.C.A. serves as both your ballot request and voter registration. Two websites with tools to help you fill it out and submit it are http://fvap.gov, which is the official U.S. government site, and http://VotefromAbroad.org, a nonpartisan site created by Democrats Abroad. (One advantage of VotefromAbroad.org is it allows you to capture your signature electronically and email the form directly without having to print it first, although voters in some states, including California and New York, are required to sign by hand in any case.) Both sites also have people available to answer your questions.

Cutoff dates for requesting your ballot vary by state, but are as early as Oct. 3, so don’t put this off.

Do as much online as possible.

At a time when both international and U.S. mail services are in a state of disarray, it’s best to avoid them altogether. Submitting your ballot request online is a good start, and it is allowed in almost every state.

When you fill out your ballot request, be sure to choose email as the delivery option so you’ll get your ballot as quickly as possible. If you’ve already sent in your request but didn’t ask to receive your ballot by email, you can submit a new one. Every state is required by federal law to make ballots available to overseas voters electronically upon request.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can use email to send your ballot back. More than 20 states require most overseas voters to return their ballots by mail, including Texas and New York. Voters from these states are most likely to run into problems.

“We really want to make sure those voters are leaning forward and can anticipate how they’re going to take action to participate in the election,” said David Beirne, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

It is crucial that voters from mail-only states send in their completed ballots well before Election Day on Nov. 3. If you’re worried about using international airmail, one option is to ask your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to send your ballot by diplomatic pouch. But not every embassy is offering this service, delivery could take six weeks or more, and your ballot would still need to wind its way through the U.S. postal system to your local election office. You can also use an express delivery service like FedEx or DHL, but the longer you wait, the more it will cost you.

Whichever way you choose, if you have to mail your ballot back, do it as soon as you receive it. Under federal law, election offices are required to send requested ballots to overseas voters at least 45 days before the election, which in this case is Sept. 19. Don’t want to wait that long? You can send a backup ballot now (more on that below).

The Military Postal Service Agency has its own list of recommended mailing dates, and service members can get more information from their Installation Voter Assistance Office.

Some states, including California and Florida, will accept completed ballots by fax but not email. If you don’t have access to a fax machine, the Federal Voting Assistance Program offers a free email-to-fax service. https://www.votefromabroad.org/faqs/22/

Each state has its own rules, so to make sure you know the exact deadlines and requirements, look yours up here. https://www.votefromabroad.org/states/ (Some state election websites may block overseas users and require a VPN for access.)

Stay in touch with your local election official.

If you don’t hear from your election official for the state in which you will be voting after you’ve sent your ballot request, contact that person’s office directly to make sure it was received. The same goes for when you return your ballot (you may also be able to track your status online). And if you have questions about your individual situation — for example, if you are back in the U.S. because of the pandemic and are now unable to return to your residence abroad — your local election official is the best person to ask. (And try to be mindful that election offices are facing overwhelming challenges this year.)

You can find contact information for your state or local election office here. https://www.fvap.gov/search-offices

Have a backup plan.

If you don’t receive your ballot by Sept. 19, contact your local election official (check your spam folder, too). In the meantime, you can fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, which serves as a backup specifically for overseas voters, and send it by mail, fax or email according to the same rules as your official ballot. Information about the candidates and ballot measures in your area is available through Ballotpedia.

If you want to be absolutely sure your vote is counted, send the backup ballot now. Then when your official ballot arrives, send that in as well. If they both arrive before the deadline — which for most states is Election Day — the election office will count only the official ballot, so there’s no need to worry your vote will be double-counted or disqualified. And you can rest easy knowing that not even a pandemic has stopped you from having your say.

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@gringal I looked at the LCS site;  they are re-opening on Sept. 21 (for members only) and they don't have any info on Voting.  The FB page of Dems Abroad-Chapala doesn't mention anything specific about it either.  I also checked the Guadalajara Consulate website and they just have some boilerplate language about voting from abroad in general, nothing about facilitating ballots via their diplomatic pouch, which I believe they have done in previous elections.  

I read just yesterday that 3 Senators have sent letters to 2 dozen US embassies in various countries, including Mexico, asking them what they are doing to assist Americans voting from abroad.  Here is text of letter: Letter to US Embassies Regarding Voters from Abroad

If you vote where you have stated you lived for several years, California, you are entitled to FAX your ballot back to your local registrar.  This will alleviate concerns with mailing your ballot.  Before you tell me you don't own a FAX machine (who does these days!!), there are many free fax services you can use.  I voted in the FL primary from here, using one of these online free FAX services.  EZ PZ.  I also emailed my registrar before faxing my ballot and a worker there emailed confirmation of its receipt in their office. 

Here is info from the California Secretary of State website.  And for others reading this who vote in other states...BE AWARE that there are at least 20 states that require you to SURFACE MAIL your completed ballot.  Always always always check with your local Voting Official.  You also need to have REGISTERED as a VOTER ABROAD to gain faster access to your ballot.  FEDERAL LAW REQUIRES ALL STATES TO EMAIL A BLANK BALLOT TO THESE REGISTERED AS VOTERS ABROAD WHEN REQUESTED BY THE VOTER.  But if you are simply registered as a Mail Voter, States do not have to email your blank ballot (nor will most allow you to FAX back your completed Mail Voter Ballot--SO MAKE SURE YOUR REGISTRATION STATUS IS CORRECT!  There is still time in most states to get your registration changed to Overseas Voter, but tick-tock, time is running out.  

As a military or overseas voter you may:

  1. Mail or fax your voted ballot and signed Military or Overseas Voter Return Envelope to your county elections official.

    You can return your voted ballot and signed Military or Overseas Voter Return Envelope by mail or fax (under certain circumstances).

    If mailing: Your voted ballot and signed return envelope must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 17 days after Election Day.

    If faxing: You may return your ballot by fax if you are a military or overseas voter living outside the territorial limits of the United States or the District of Columbia, or you are a member of the military called for military service within the United States seven or less days before Election Day. It must be received by your county elections office by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. If you decide to fax your voted ballot and signed Military or Overseas Voter Return Envelope, you must also fax an "Oath of Voter" form to waive your right to a confidential vote. This oath is in addition to the voter's declaration that is on the Military or Overseas Voter Return Envelope. Please use the oath form your county provides to you; however, many counties also accept the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) Alternative Form (PDF). Please check with your county before using FVAP's Alternative Form.

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19 minutes ago, #HarryB said:

I sent in the email request for absentee ballot (I was told we needed to do this). After two weeks I called and confirmed receipt. NJ says ballots going out end of September. What if we don't get it in time? Dems sending in consulate pouch?


See if they have the means to email you the ballot and return envelope. You'd receive the ballot when it's available leaving ample time to return it. If you wait to receive it in the mail you won't have time to return it before the deadline. 

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46 minutes ago, John Shrall said:

See if they have the means to email you the ballot and return envelope. You'd receive the ballot when it's available leaving ample time to return it. If you wait to receive it in the mail you won't have time to return it before the deadline. 

All 50 states are required under Federal law to email or fax or download the delivery of ballots to Overseas Voters.  But you have to ask (or check a box when registering).  All states are required to deliver the ballots by electronic means no later than 45 days before an election.  However, the Federal law does not require states to allow ballots to be returned by email or fax; at least 20 states require return by surface mail.  CHECK with your LOCAL registrar/official to find out their rules and procedures, and best to do it NOW.  At the very least if you are allowed to FAX your completed ballot, you need to confirm their FAX number!

Everyone mark your calendar for SEPT. 19th-----if you are an Overseas Voter, your ballot must be sent to you via electronic means (if you so requested) on or before that date.  

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1 hour ago, cedros said:

No, they don't

Trinidad wrote me "We don´t get faxes, we only send." so they don't give out their fax number. I guess it is the same with their phone number.

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On 9/4/2020 at 12:31 PM, #HarryB said:

I sent in the email request for absentee ballot (I was told we needed to do this). After two weeks I called and confirmed receipt. NJ says ballots going out end of September. What if we don't get it in time? Dems sending in consulate pouch?


In NJ you can request email ballot, and (I know it varies by county) can start sending them out Sept 19th.    Should be plenty of time....

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