How to Vote OverseasReading Time: 6 minutes
Last Updated on September 7, 2020
Step-By-Step Voting By Absentee Ballot in the 2020 U.S. Elections
Photo Credit: Element5 Digital
If you’re a US citizen living abroad but are eligible to vote, this post is for you. It will show you step-by-step how to register and vote from overseas.
All of this information is official instruction from the US Embassy in France.
Your #1 resource of information concerning US federal, state and local elections is The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) for US citizens working and residing aboard.
This year, the U.S. Elections will take place on Tuesday, November 3rd. In some states voter registration and ballot request deadlines for the November 2020 elections are as early as October 5th. Whether you’re a first-time voter or have already received ballots and voted absentee in past elections, the US Embassy recommends that you complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA-pdf) each year to ensure you’re able to participate in elections as an overseas absentee voter.
If you have already completed a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) in 2020 and requested electronic delivery of your ballot, you will be receiving your blank ballot or instructions for how to access your ballot soon if you have not already received it. If you’re not sure about the status of your absentee ballot request you should contact your local election officials in the United Statesor check the status of your registration via your state’s voter registration verification website.
You can get voting assistance from the Embassy in Paris or Consulates General in Marseille and Strasbourg. You can also drop off your completed voting forms and ballots, addressed to your local election officials, at those locations.
If you have never voted while overseas before, it’s not too late. The process is easy — just follow these steps:
1. Register to Vote and Complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA-pdf)
Whether you’re a first-time voter or have voted absentee in past elections, you should complete an FPCAto receive your ballot this fall. It allows you to register to vote and request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (presidential and state primaries, run-off, special, and the November general elections) during the course of the year in which you submit the FPCA. Local election officials in all U.S. states and territories accept the FPCA.
👉🏽 The online voting assistant available at FVAP.gov is an easy way to complete the FPCA. It will ask you questions specific to your state and tell you if electronic ballot delivery is possible. No matter which state you vote in, we encourage you to ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state). Be sure to include your email address to take advantage of electronic delivery. The online voting assistant will generate a printable FPCA, which you can then print and sign.
2. Submit the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) ASAP!
Some states allow you to return your completed ballot by email or fax. If your state requires you to return paper voting forms or ballots to local election officials:
• You can use a courier service such as FedEx or DHL.
• French Postal Services: You may also use international mail by placing your signed, dated ballot in a properly addressed envelope, bearing sufficient French postage, and mail it from any French post office. General transit time: one week.
• U.S. Mail via Embassy services: You can download the postage paid envelope (see all materials and forms), address it to your county board of elections and drop it off at the:
U.S. Embassy, Paris, weekdays between 9am and 5pm;
Consulate General, Marseille, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 2pm to 3pm; or
Consulate General, Strasbourg, Monday to Friday from 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm
All voting materials MUST be placed in a U.S. postage paid envelope and addressed to the appropriate U.S. election office.
You can likewise ask a friend or family member drop off your FPCA at the Embassy on your behalf.
Photo Credit:Paul Weaver
3. Receive Your Ballot
After submitting your FPCA, most states allow you to confirm online your registration and ballot delivery selection. States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election (this year, by September 19) for federal office (President, U.S. Senate, or U.S. House of Representatives) to any overseas U.S. citizen who has completed an FPCA.
4. VOTE! abroad and Return Your Ballot
We recommend that if you plan to return your paper ballot to your election officials via the U.S. Embassy in Paris, please deliver your ballot to the Embassy by October 2 to account for transit times between overseas posts and local voting districts. You may also return your ballot using the means described in entry 2 above: French Postal Services or private commercial courier service.
If sending by the postal service, the Federal website’s recommendation is to vote and send back your ballot as soon as you receive it.Check the deadline for your ballot based on your state. The recommended vote-by day for the 2020 General Election is October 13, 2020, if you’re outside the U.S.
If You Don’t Receive Your Official Ballot:
If there isn’t enough time to receive and send back your ballot before the election, use the online assistant to complete the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), or download and print the FWAB here. It is a backup ballot you can use if you don’t receive your ballot in a timely manner. If your official absentee ballot arrives after sending in the FWAB, also fill it out and send it in. Only one will be counted.
After you send in your ballot, you can check if it was received by your election office.
Due to the global pandemic, when you are ready to submit your ballot, it is strongly recommend that you check with your nearest embassy or consulate to verify whether they are still able to collect ballots for return to the U.S. or are recommending use of a private commercial courier service.
The process is simple:
1. Register to Vote and Complete your Federal Post Card Application
2. Send off the FPCA as soon as possible
3. You shall receive your ballot (at least 45 days before election 👉🏽 Sept 19th)
4. VOTE and return your overseas Ballot (by October 13th)
If there isn’t enough time to receive and send back your ballot before the election, there is a way to vote! Complete the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot.
HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT HOW TO VOTE OVERSEAS
Please help spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues that now is the time to start thinking about overseas voting. Consider posting to your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other social media account that you are an active voter and will be dropping off or mailing your Federal Post Card Application or completed ballot. Use #ProudOverseasVoter to help get the word out about voting.
Your Vote Counts
Many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%. All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline (differs by state). Be an educated voter. Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues. You can also read national and hometown newspapers online and search the Internet to locate articles and information.
To receive information by email about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP’s Voting Alerts (firstname.lastname@example.org). FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.
If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact the:
U.S. Embassy Paris Voting Assistance Officer at VoteParis@state.gov or call (01 43 12 29 97)
Marseille at: VoteMarseille@state.gov
Strasbourg at: USAStrasbourg@state.gov
Important Note: Embassies and consulates are not polling places. Same-day in-person voting is not available outside the United States.
Please do not send any voting materials to the embassy by mail. They will be opened and returned to you.
United States Embassy
American Citizen Services Unit
4, avenue Gabriel
75008 Paris Cedex 08 France
Telephone in France: 01 43 12 22 22
Telephone from U.S.: (011 33) 1 43 12 22 22
American Citizen Services: e-mail – email@example.com
Passports and Citizenship: e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
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