Absentee Ballots

Military personnel serving overseas vote using absentee ballots

by Mark Hughes and Liz Olson
Ballot

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If you are unable to make it to your local polling place to cast your vote in an election, you may qualify for an absentee ballot. Rules regarding absentee ballots vary by state and territory. To find more information about state-specific rules and requirements, see the National Association of Secretaries of State website: www.nass.org

Some states require a reason why you cannot make it to the polls on election day. Common reasons for applying for an absentee ballot include being overseas or in the military, being away from your town or city on election day, having a physical disability, or because of religious beliefs. All citizens 18 years old and over who reside overseas can apply to vote in federal elections by using the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).

A registration/absentee ballot request form must be submitted and processed before an absentee ballot can be distributed. The form is available at the FVAP website. It is recommended that you mail in registration forms 45 days prior to the election. Most states will begin sending ballots to overseas citizens 30 to 45 days before the election. If you are not overseas, but are voting absentee, some states allow you to vote early.

Requirements for Military Personnel

Military personnel must complete the absentee ballot request form and send it to the election official of the state or territory where he or she is registered to vote. The election official will then approve the request and return the ballot to the sender. Once completed, the absentee ballot should be returned to the state election official to be counted.

If you do not receive your absentee ballot within three weeks of your state’s ballot receipt deadline, you may send in a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). For information on how to submit a FWAB, go here.

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