How To Vote From Abroad For U.S. Citizens

DEMOCRATS

By Barbara Erickson

American voters living abroad now run the risk of disenfranchisement. States can now require you to register every calendar year; a number of states have implemented the policy. Even if you previously registered to vote and have been receiving election materials, visit the website of your state’s Secretary of State and click the link to check your status. Or, re-register. The primary season starts in March. Now is a good time to register to make sure you get your ballots in time.

US citizens permanently living outside the country and without a stateside residence can register and vote through two online tools. (If you still have a residence in the US but will not be home to vote, you request a regular one-time absentee ballot from your county clerk.)

Registering in any state as an overseas voter requires completing and submitting a one- page Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) form. Two excellent online sites, votefromabroad.org and fvap.gov, make it a simple, five-minute process. Sponsored by the Democratic Party, votefromabroad.org is completely non-partisan. The Federal Voting Assistance Program runs fvap.gov.

While similar, the sites take slightly different approaches. votefromabroad.org is clearer in helping you fill out the form, particularly with some address questions –guidance appears at this article’s end. It asks some survey questions and whether you want to join Democrats Abroad, but participating is optional. While fvap.gov is more comprehensive and linked to vast voting resources, it emphasizes assisting overseas military personnel; instructions are somewhat confusing.

The sites are user-friendly. Enter your name and provide some basic personal and contact information/addresses. The sites generate your completed FPCA and give you the address for sending. Download the completed form. You have options for sending it. (Note: votefromabroad.org says your form has to be mailed and the mailing has to show proof that it was mailed from outside the US. Inaccurate; needs updating.)

There are mailing options. Use your San Miguel mail forwarding service. If you don’t have one, La Conexion on Aldama 3 will send it to the border and deposit it in US mail for a small fee. The US Consular Agent in La Luciernaga will pouch it to the US.

Alternatively, print, sign, scan and email the FPCA. Only Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Vermont will not allow email submission. Faxing the signed form is another option.

Are you a first-time voter? Some states add additional requirements for registration. It depends on the state, but both votefromabroad.org and fvap.gov have information on what the states require.

Here are some pointers for answering those questions.

Question # 1: Who are you? For most expats in San Miguel, the response will be “I am a US citizen living outside the country, and my return is uncertain”.

Question #2: What is your US voting address: They want the last address where you were registered to vote in the US. You don’t need to still be there. It does not need to be a current address. If you are not sure about your last voter registration, it is where you last lived when you last lived in the US even if that was thirty years ago (and unless you registered in another state when you moved). The answer determines where your vote will count. They do not mail your ballot there.

Question #3: Where are you now? Give the address where you currently live outside the US. If San Miguel, it is your street address. If you use a mail forwarding service, add it as the third address. Including a mail forwarding address or choosing to receive your ballot by email are the most secure methods!

If you still have trouble, the San Miguel chapter of Democrats Abroad will have tables in several venues around town through February. Their trained volunteers can assist you. Atención will announce the dates, times and venues. Or join the Facebook page of the San Miguel chapter of Democrats Abroad facebook.com/Democrats-Abroad-San-Miguel-de-Allende for updates on these GOTV (Get Out the Vote) registration/information tables. Look for us at the Biblioteca, TOSMA, Starbucks and Luciernaga.

 

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