Recently The Local held an online poll to ask our American readers about their obstacles to voting absentee from abroad.
In partnership with the Federal Voting Assistance Program, we address some of the most common concerns that were identified.
What am I voting for in November?
When we polled our readers, 15 percent of them said they ‘didn’t feel motivated to vote’. However, the midterms involve a great deal of change. As we noted in our last piece, in November 2022 all the seats in the US House of Representatives are up for election, in addition to a third of the Senate. Additionally, 36 state governors will be elected, as well as 30 state attorney-generals.
These are all positions with the legislative power to make important decisions on a local, state or federal level. Those that are elected will play a real role in shaping what the future looks like for all of us in areas such as health, education, the economy and civil rights.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
If you’re a US citizen and over the age of 18 years, you are eligible to vote.
Put simply, if you could vote in the US, you can vote from abroad. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know when you will return to the US, or if you plan on never returning – this is a right that you don’t lose.
What matters for each individual election is that you are registered to vote. All states and territories require that this is done before a certain deadline, varying from state to state. 16.67 percent of readers polled felt that ‘the deadlines can be too confusing’ – to help voters with this, the FVAP website has quick links to the deadlines for each state.
How do I register to vote?
Almost a quarter of readers (21.67 percent) told us that they ‘don’t know how to register’. Luckily, the process is simple and easy to complete. First, visit the FVAP website. There, you can use FVAP’s Online Assistant to register with the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) – a very brief process as you only need a few personal details.
The FPCA is also how you request your ballot. Once you complete the form, print, sign, send in the FPCA to you election office and your ballot will be on its way to you!
Some states allow you to email or fax your FPCA to their electoral authority. Check what your state allows using the graphic below.
How do I fill out my ballot?
Regardless of which state electoral authority will count your vote, all absentee ballot papers come with clear instructions for filling them out – such as writing details legibly, using block letters. You should also follow any specific instructions for sealing the ballot and signing the required affidavit. This last part is important – it’s how electoral officials verify your ballot so that it can be counted.
How much time should I allow to post my ballot?
This was identified as one of the main concerns for many of our readers – some 46.67 percent of readers identified that ‘mail is unreliable’. However, as long as ballots are sent in good time – at least two weeks before the election – you should avoid running into any issues.
Some states even allow you to submit your mail by fax or email, as shown in the graphic at the head of this article.
It’s never been easier to vote from abroad. Photo: Getty Images
How do I know whether my ballot has been received?
You can check to see whether your ballot has been received by contacting the electoral authority in the state that you are voting in.
Again, FVAP makes this process easy. By selecting your home state on the website, you can either make an email query, or if the state has an online system, you can use it to check if the ballot has arrived and been processed.
What happens if I don’t receive my ballot?
If you have not received your ballot in a timely fashion, you do have a backup – the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) allows you to vote. Simply input your state and local jurisdiction and follow the steps. Just make sure you send your FWAB so that it arrives before the deadline for your particular state’s electoral authority – these are easily found in the FVAP Voting Assistance Guide by clicking on your state.
The 2022 midterms are an opportunity for every eligible US citizen to help decide the future direction of the communities they have strong links to.