Absentee Voting for American Expats Living Abroad

by | Dec 18, 2019 | Expat Life in Sydney

How to Vote in the US Federal Election While Living in Australia as an Expat

There are many Americans who are living abroad that want to exercise their right to vote. Just because you are not physically present in the US for an election doesn’t mean you cannot cast your ballot. Here, you will find answers to commonly asked questions about the process of voting from overseas.

Who is eligible to vote in a Federal Election while living abroad?

All Americans who are US citizens and of legal voting age (18 years or older) are eligible to vote, including those who have never lived in the United States but are considered citizens. You must be at least 18 years old on the election date.

How to register to vote when living abroad as a US expat?

Requirements for registration vary from state to state, but most states require that an absentee ballot application be submitted to start the process for absentee voting. To receive this ballot, you can request one by mail from a local election official using a Registration and Absentee Ballot Request Post Card Application (FPCA form).

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) encourages the use of the FPCA when beginning the process since it is standardized across all states and territories and acts both as a registration form and an absentee ballot request form.

Overseas voters who are not registered are strongly urged to have their forms returned to the state elections office at least 90 days before the election date, and those registered should allow 45 days.

You must receive your ballot in plenty of time to return your form within the specified time.

What if your absentee ballot doesn’t arrive in time?

You have the option to send in a written Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) if you are registered and your ballot has been requested but not received in time. Fill in and mail the FWAB. Should your ballot arrive after you have already mailed the FWAB, return it as well. Only one of your ballots will be counted. If you have questions about returning your form on time, you can ask for advice when requesting your FPCA form.

Many states allow the form to be faxed or emailed. You can check the methods allowed for your state at fvap.gov/vao/vag.

How is the legal state of residence determine while voting from abroad?

The Federal law is known as the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), allows overseas citizens to register in the last state where they had residency in even if: many years have passed since living there, no residence has been maintained in that state, and the intent to return is uncertain. US Citizens who have never lived in the United States are able to use the state of residence that their parents or legal guardian are registered with.

How do you verify that you're registered to vote when living overseas?

There's a small postcard section of the FPCA form that should be returned to you by state election officials. The returned postcard acknowledges receipt of the form and may include additional comments.

If your application is rejected for any reason, they are required to contact you. Still, approved applications are handled differently from state to state, so you are highly encouraged to contact the election office directly for confirmation.

When should you receive your absentee ballot?

Ballots should be received within two weeks of the election date.

What are your options for returning your absentee ballot?

Several states now allow the electronic return of voted ballots. Be sure to include your email address and select the option to request electronic ballot delivery when filling out the FPCA form.

If your state does not allow electronic return then use one of the postage-free envelopes available on the FVAP website. You can also drop off your ballot request or voted ballot at the nearest U.S. Embassy. Here's a link to the US Embassy in Sydney website.

Do you have to register for each election individually while living abroad?

Once you have registered for the year, you can participate in all of the elections for that year. Get in the habit of registering every January. A simple calendar reminder will help you not to forget.

Does voting while living abroad affect my state or federal tax liability?

While some states do impose a state tax liability for local and state elections but there is no liability imposed upon federal elections.

REFERENCES

Federal Voting Assistance Program
The Association of Americans Resident Overseas

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