Apply for an Absentee Ballot
The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) is accepted by all states and territories as an application for registration and for absentee ballot. It is postage free when placed in the U.S. mail. You may also send a written request for a ballot to your county, city, town or parish clerk. The on-line version of the FPCA (OFPCA) is available at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) website, www.fvap.gov, but must be completed, printed out, signed, dated and placed in an envelope affixed with proper postage, and mailed to your Local Election Official. All States and Territories, with the exception of American Samoa, Guan and Ohio accept the OFPCA.
Specific information on applying for absentee registration and a ballot is contained in the Voting Assistance Guide. Voting Assistance Officers assigned to units of military installations and at each U.S. embassy or consulate have a copy of the guide to assist you in completing your FPCA. U.S. citizen organizations overseas and many corporate offices of U.S. companies also have copies of the guide to assist you. Members of the Uniformed Services and U.S. embassy/consulate personnel can obtain hard copies of the Guide through their normal distribution channels or by contacting their Service or Department of State Voting Action Officer. You can also find PDF versions of the Guide as well as other voting related information and links on the FVAP website.
Registration requirements vary from state to state. For voting purposes, your "legal voting residence" can be the state or territory where you last resided prior to entering military service or the state or territory that you have since claimed as your legal residence. To claim a new legal residence you must have simultaneous physical presence and the intent to return to that location as your primary residence. Military and family members may change their legal residence every time they change permanent duty stations or they may retain their legal residence without change. Family members may have a different legal voting residence from the member. A legal officer should be consulted before legal residence is changed because there are usually other factors that should be considered besides voting. Be sure to enter the complete address of your legal voting residence, including street or rural route and number, when completing the residence section of the FPCA. Even though you may no longer maintain formal ties such as property ownership to that residence, the address is needed to place you in a proper voting district, ward, precinct or parish.
States and territories allow the citizen to register and request an absentee ballot by submitting a single FPCA during the election year. If you are permanently registered you should submit an FPCA early in the election year. To find out the Absentee Registration and Voting procedures for your state, refer to the Federal Voting Assistance Program's listing at www.fvap.gov/pubs/vag/vagchapter3.html. Under the heading of "Where to Send It" you will find a list of addresses for county and local election officials to send your FPCA to. These officials may need to contact you for further information, please provide an email address or fax number on the FPCA.
At www.fvap.gov/pubs/vag/vagchapter3.html you can also find out if your state requires you to have your FPCA or ballot notarized by a notary, U.S. Commissioned Officer, embassy or consular officer, or other officials authorized to administer oaths.
How to Cast Your Vote
In all states and territories, one FPCA will secure for the applicant both primary and general election ballots for Federal offices for an entire calendar year.
Under normal circumstances, most states and territories begin mailing ballots to citizens 30-45 days before an election. If you have not received your ballot two weeks before the election, contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) Ombudsman Service to assist in determining when your ballot was mailed. Always execute and return your absentee ballot regardless of when you receive it. Court decisions sometimes require the counting of ballots voted by election day, but received late.
Military members may vote in the state or territory where stationed if they change their legal residence to that state or territory, even if they live on a military installation. Be advised that there are legal obligations that may be incurred, such as taxation, if you change your state or territory of residence. Therefore, consult a legal officer before making such a decision. At the present time, there are no provisions for personnel stationed outside the United States to vote, in person, where stationed.
Family Member's Rights
The law entitles eligible family members of military personnel to vote absentee. Family members are considered to be in the same category of absentee voter as military members and generally should follow the same procedures. Family members of military personnel residing overseas, who are U.S. citizens and who have never resided in the U.S., usually claim a U. S. citizen parent's legal state of residence as their own.