Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad
VOTING IN 2020 U.S. ELECTIONS
Your vote counts! Did you know many U.S. house and senate elections have been decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots cast by absentee voters? Follow these simple steps to make your vote count in 2020:
1. Register and Request Your Absentee Ballot: Complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) online at FVAP.gov/fpca
2. Receive and Complete Your Ballot: registration and ballot delivery online.
3. Return Your Completed Ballot: States have different dates and procedures. Some allow you to return your completed ballot electronically and others do not. If your state requires you to return paper voting forms or ballots to local election officials by mail, then you can do so free of charge at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Place your ballots in postage paid return envelopes or in envelopes bearing sufficient domestic U.S. postage, address them to the relevant local election officials, and drop-off the ballot at the U.S. Embassy front gate, Mon-Fri, between 8:00am and 5:00pm.
Researching the Candidates and Issues: Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues.
Contact the Voting Assistance Officer!
To contact the Voting Assistance Officer in LISBON, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the voting Assistance Officer in AZORES, send an e-mail to: VotePontaDelgada@State.gov
Alternatively, you may call FVAP toll free from Portugal at 800-812-543 from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm (Eastern US Standard Time) or access: www.fvap.gov
Federal Post Card Application (FPCA): FVAP.gov offers an FPCA online assistant that guides users through the form-completion process, as well as, a fillable PDF form of the FPCA for download FORMS
Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB): The FWAB serves as a backup ballot if the voter does not receive the requested absentee ballot in time. FVAP.gov offers a FWAB online assistant that guides users through the form-completion process, as well as, a fillable PDF form of the FWAB for download FORMS
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I vote?
You must register to vote and request the absentee ballot. To apply for voter registration and to request an absentee ballot, American citizens abroad send a form called The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to the state where they last resided immediately prior to departing the U.S. The Federal Post Card Application may be obtained from the Federal Voting Assistance Program website. Please be aware of your state’s registration deadline as the deadlines for the different states may vary extensively!
Some states accept the FPCA in faxed format, or by electronic submission, but they may also require you to send the hard copy by mail. Please consult the state specific instructions on the Federal Voting Assistance Program website to find out if your state allows these practices.
Your local voting officials should mail your absentee ballot 30 to 45 days before the general election. Return your voted ballot as early as possible. Be aware of your state’s ballot receipt deadline, as well as any postmarking requirements. If you are unsure of which county you last resided in, please use the County Finder for assistance (also available on the FVAP webiste).
How do I return my ballot?
Complete your ballot carefully and legibly and return it to your local election official as early as possible by one of the following methods:
U.S. Embassy Pouch: You may drop off your ballot request, FPCA, or voted ballot at the U.S Embassy for return to the United States Monday through Friday between 13:30 and 15:30. However, the ballot or FPCA must be addressed to your local election official and have sufficient postage or be in a postage-paid envelope. Postage-paid envelopes are available at www.FVAP.gov. If dropping off a ballot at the embassy, please drop it off as early before the election as possible to allow for sufficient mailing time. Mailing time from the embassy is approximately two weeks. Note: The Embassy is not a polling place.
Fax, Email, or Internet: A number of states allow for ballots to be returned via electronic transmission. Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Voting Assistance Guide (VAG) to see transmission options for your state.
Local Mail: You may use local post to mail your ballot back to the United States. Be sure to affix appropriate international postage. Mailing time through Portuguese post take approximately two weeks and costs approximately 80 euro cents.
Express Courier Service: If time is short, or local mail is unreliable you can return your ballot by courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS. Note: FedEx does not deliver to P.O. Boxes.
Confirm your registration and ballot delivery online. Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website at www.FVAP.gov.
I haven't lived in the U.S. for years - to which state do I send my federal postcard application?
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) allows citizens outside the United States to vote in the state, or territory, where they last resided immediately prior to departing the United States. This applies even if many years have elapsed since their departure from the U.S. and the voter remains no residence in the state or territory, and the intent to return to that state or territory is uncertain.
Also, an address that a voter may have maintained in the U.S. for other purposes does not qualify as the state in which the voter should register to vote in (unless the voter actually resided at that address.) A voter must always register to vote in the state or territory where he/she last resided.
For members of the Uniformed Services and their family members, in most states the legal voting residence is defined as where they have, or have had, physical presence at the location and, simultaneously, the intent to remain or return.
State laws regarding residence and who can register to vote differ. Acceptance or denial of voter registration is up to each state. Depending on your state, you may be registered permanently or temporarily, or allowed to waive registration to apply for an absentee ballot. For more detailed information, please see state specific information from the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
I've never voted before and I never lived in the U.S. - what do I do?
There are certain states in the United States that allow U.S. citizens overseas to vote even if they have never resided in the U.S. If a citizen has never resided in the U.S. but has a parent who is eligible to vote in one these sixteen states, a citizen is eligible to vote at the same voting residence claimed by their parent (certain special provisions may apply, please see the state specific information for more details.)
If you are not from one of the states allowing such a practice, do not give up. It may be that you have a bank account, property, or membership in an organization in one of the states that does allow registration and absentee voting by such persons. Perhaps you visited one of the states allowing such registration and earned income there or obtained a driver’s license there, or developed some other tie to that state. You should provide as much pertinent information as possible as an attachment to the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) when you send it in. The final decision will be up to the local election official.