Monday, October 8, 2012

How to Vote Abroad From Spain in U.S. Elections

Voting: it’s one of the fundamental rights of being an adult citizen of the United States. But just because you happen to be living abroad doesn’t mean you should be deprived of that right. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to cast a vote for the candidate of your choice while overseas by requesting an absentee ballot. This is how to do it!

Oregon ballot
Vote Oregon! by Gary Jungling on Flickr

1) You request the ballot

Assuming you’re already registered to vote at your last place of residence back in the U.S., fill out the form called the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and send it to the official responsible for elections in your county. For example, the Texas Secretary of State’s website has a list of such personnel here. If you’re pressed for time, you can put your email address on the form and the election administrator/county clerk will email you your ballot for you to print off. You can even register and apply for the ballot before you leave the country; I drove to my county’s election office and handed the form in in person. VoteTexas.gov says you can even email your form!

2) You receive the ballot

Whether you receive it via snail mail, e-mail, or even fax, select the candidates you want to represent you (as long as they’re not running unopposed *cough*my U.S. House rep*cough*) and sign and seal everything. Methods of mailing can vary a little bit; I received my ballot via email and wasn’t sure whether to print the “envelope” page on a physical envelope, so I just made sure to sign on every line possible and stuffed all the pages into a single, taped-close envelope. I believe if you receive the ballot via regular mail it should come with security envelopes and such for you to seal, sign, and stuff into each other.

3) You send the ballot

Go to the local postal service where you live and send your envelope back to the States to the address for your county’s election administrator. Congratulations! You have officially voted from abroad.

Backup ballot

If you still haven’t received your ballot and there are less than thirty days before Election Day, you can send an emergency or backup ballot called the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Basically, you just write in the candidates you want and the offices they’re running for, or you can just vote a straight-party ticket and not worry about every individual race.

Deadlines

The deadline to send your FPCA is 7 days before election day, and the deadline to send your ballot is 5 days after the election (not sure if it means out of your hands or received by the government). So get to it!

Resources

* Federal Voting Assistance Program (the government’s website with all the forms you can think of)

* Vote From Abroad (associated with Democrats Abroad, but provides services regardless of your party affiliation)

* VoteTexas.gov (my state’s voting information website with a good overview of the overseas voting process)
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