The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) guarantees United States citizens overseas the right to vote in federal elections in the United States. (Federal elections include primaries, general and special elections for the President, Vice President, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to Congress.) The UOCAVA applies only to federal elections. However, many states in the United States have enacted legislation whereby certain categories of citizens residing overseas may vote by absentee ballot for state or local officials. The same procedures for obtaining local election ballots are used for obtaining federal election ballots.
In order to vote in either federal or state elections in the United States, most states require citizens residing abroad to register in the state of his or her "voting residence." A voting residence is the legal residence or domicile in which the voter could vote if present in that state. Military and Merchant Marine members, their spouses and dependents may register to vote in the domicile (state) that the member claims as his or her residence. Civilian U.S. government employees overseas, their spouses and dependents will generally register in the state they claim as their legal residence. In accordance with the UOCAVA, private overseas citizens (not affiliated to the U.S. government), must vote in their last state of residence immediately prior to departure from the United States. This applies even if many years have elapsed and the voter maintains no abode nor has any intention of returning to that state.
How to Vote
Applying for the ballot: It is important to note that new regulations for overseas voting went into effect in 2010. If you want to be able to vote while you are outside the United States, you should send a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials year. It's easy to do - just go to www.FVAP.gov, the official U.S. Government website for overseas absentee voting information, to start the process.
We strongly recommend you get in the habit of submitting a new FPCA every January to ensure you receive ballots for all the elections in which you are eligible to vote during the calendar year. In addition to the November general elections held every other year, you may be eligible to vote in federal or state primary elections, special elections, emergency elections, and runoff elections.
Absentee voting is a simple four or five step process.
- You send in a completed FPCA to your local election officials (this can be done at www.FVAP.gov)
- They confirm your eligibility to vote, and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots
- They send you a blank absentee ballot by mail and make it available electronically
- You complete the ballot and send it back before the ballot receipt deadline
- If your ballot fails to arrive, use the emergency federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB) to vote
Both FPCAs and FWABs are available at the Consular Section in Santo Domingo. The Consular Section’s hours are 7:30am-4:00pm Monday- Thursday and Fridays from 7:30-11:00am. The Embassy is closed on Dominican and U.S. holidays. You can also download the FPCA, FWAB, Postage Paid envelopes and security envelopes here: http://www.fvap.gov/eo/overview/materials/forms
If you have any questions, please contact the U.S. Citizen Services Unit at SDOAmericans@state.gov.
- All 50 states now accept the FPCA. All states will send out ballots for every election during the year for which the person is eligible; it is no longer necessary to send in an FPCA for each election during the year.
- Check your state's voter's registration deadline by going to the following Internet address: http://www.fvap.gov/vao/vag
What do I do with the FPCA?
Fill out the FPCA according to the instructions attached to the postcard. If you have questions about the instructions or if you need to know the address of the official to whom to address the postcard (e.g. the County Clerk, Board of Elections, Registrar of Voters, etc.), consult the Voting Assistance Guide extract for your state.
The Voting Assistance Guide contains up-to-date requirements and information for voting in each state. You will be given the state information applicable in your case. Note the date for applying. Once you determine the county you vote in, the Guide can give you the address and zip code of the county official to whom you must address your FPCA. Note that many states will accept the FPCA as a multipurpose form, i.e., it can be used as an application for registration and/or an absentee ballot.
In the event that your voting state does not accept the FPCA for all purposes, the state will mail you a registration form, which must be completed. In some cases the form must be notarized before a U.S. consular officer or notary public abroad. In those states, only after the registration form is fully executed and mailed will you receive an absentee ballot. The possibility of this two-steps process makes it even more important to begin early.
Notarization: If the state requires that you take an oath to the contents of the FPCA, bring it along with your U.S. passport to the U.S. Citizens Services Unit of the Consular Section. All notarization services on voting materials are performed free of charge. If you cannot appear before a consular officer, you may have it witnessed by a local solicitor or notary public, to whom you will likely need to pay a fee.
Where to send the FPCA: Look at your state's absentee registration and voting procedures in the Voting Assistance Guide (VAG). Under the heading "How and Where to Submit your FPCA", you will find a list of addresses for city and county local election officials.
Mailing the FPCA: The hard copy of the FPCA has pre-paid franking. It can be mailed without the need for postage stamps if it is sent through any APO/FPO mail facility, the Embassy or Consulate diplomatic pouch, or hand-carried to the U.S. and dropped off in the U.S. postal system. If you download or photocopy the OFPCA, and send it through the diplomatic pouch, APO/FPO facilities or the U.S. postal system, you will first need to put it in an envelope and affix sufficient U.S. postage. If you send the FPCA or OFPCA by express courier service directly to local election officials, you need not affix postage but will have to pay applicable express courier charges. Also check the Voting Assistance Guide for your state as many of the states now allow you to fax your ballot or submit your FPCA electronically via the Internet.
Will I incur tax liability by registering to vote?
Federal law provides that no tax liability may be imposed based on exercising your right to vote in Federal elections, i.e., elections for the President, Vice President, U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to Congress. If you are a civilian citizen residing outside the U.S. and wish for tax purposes to avoid classifying yourself as a state resident, you should check "Other U.S. citizen residing outside U.S." on the FPCA. You will normally receive a Federal ballot only. If the state sends you a full ballot because it does not print a separate Federal ballot, you may vote the full ballot without incurring a tax liability.
Note, however, that some applications for ballots or the ballots themselves will ask you whether you want to vote for state officials up for election, i.e., candidates for governor or for state legislature. Before voting for state officials, consult the Voting Assistance Guide, which lists the states in which you may incur tax liability by either registering to vote or actually voting. To reiterate, if you register to vote and vote only for federal officials the law precludes the federal government and state or local governments from using voting in determining your tax domicile.
Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot: Overseas voters may be eligible to use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to vote for federal offices (President/Vice President, Senator, and Representative). The FWAB may be used only for general elections and is a backup for voters who expect to be able to use the regular absentee ballot from their state or territory but who did not receive that ballot in time to vote and return it. The local election official must receive the FWAB no later than the deadline for receipt of regular absentee ballots under state law. The FWAB is to be used to assist those voters who would be disenfranchised through no fault of their own, and is not designed as a replacement for the regular state ballot. It is valid only when the state ballot has already been requested.
The Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots may be obtained by contacting the U.S. Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the Consular Section.
Denial of right to vote: Any person who believes that he or she has been wrongfully denied the right to vote should follow the procedures outlined in the Voting Assistance Guide. Alternatively, contact the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20520.
Voters should submit FPCA at least 30 days before every election day
Every state has a deadline for closing of their registration lists. You can check your state's registration deadline by checking the Voting Assistance Guide (VAG) for your state.
For assistance, you may contact an FVAP staff member through the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Citizens may reach the FVAP using the toll-free numbers listed on the FVAP website, http://www.fvap.gov/. In the U.S. call 1-800-438-VOTE (8683) or use DSN (military) 425-1584.
Questions regarding the above may also be referred to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, Department of Defense, 4800 Mark Center Drive, Suite 03J25-02, Alexandria, VA 22350-5000. Additionally, the FVAP can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com and on the World Wide Web at http://www.fvap.gov/.
Frequently asked questions about voting
I am a U.S. citizen living abroad. May I vote in U.S. elections?
Yes. Generally, all U.S. citizens 18 years or older who are or will be residing outside the United States during an election period are eligible to vote by absentee ballot in any election for Federal office.
What is an election for Federal office?
An election for Federal office is any general, special, runoff or primary election to select, nominate, or elect any candidate for the offices of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the United States Senate or Member of the United States House of Representatives.
Can I vote at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate? No. However, Voting Assistance Officers witness or notarize the forms or ballots (if required). They will also allow you to send voting materials through the diplomatic pouch or APO/FPO mail system to your local election officials in the U.S., where your registration and ballot requests are processed and voted absentee ballots are counted.
Where can I obtain information on a candidate's issues and positions?
In addition to finding information on international news channels, the Internet or in U.S. newsmagazines and newspapers, you can contact Democrats Abroad or Republicans Abroad. They maintain offices overseas and will send you information pertaining to candidates and issues. U.S. Embassies and Consulates can provide the local addresses or phone numbers for these organizations.