Your Vote Counts! Did you know that many U.S. elections for House and Senate seats have been decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots cast by absentee voters? 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.
Follow a few simple steps to make sure that you can vote in the 2018 U.S. elections:
- Request Your Ballot: If you haven’t already, complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). You must complete a new FPCAafter January 1, 2018 to ensure you receive your ballot for the 2018 elections. The completion of the FPCA allows you to request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (President, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives) including primaries and special elections during the calendar year in which it is submitted. The FPCA is accepted by all local election officials in all U.S. states and territories.
You can complete the FPCA online at www.FVAP.gov. The online voting assistant will ask you questions specific to your state. 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). Include your email address on your FPCA to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option. Return the FPCA per the instructions on the website. FVAP.gov will tell you if your state allows the FPCA to be returned electronically or if you must submit a paper copy with original signature. If you must return a paper version, please see below for mailing options.
- Receive and Complete Your Ballot: States are required to send out ballots 45 days before a regular election for federal office and states generally send out ballots at least 30 days before primary elections. For most states, you can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online.
- Return Your Completed Ballot: 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 international mail, a courier service such as FedEx or DHL, or you may also drop off completed voting materials during regular business hours (Mon-Thurs: 8am to 5pm and Fri: 8am to 12pm) at the U.S. Embassy in Panama City. You do not need an appointment for this service. Voters should note that it normally takes seven to ten business days for mail sent via diplomatic pouch to arrive to the diplomatic pouch location in Virginia. After that, the mail must go through the postal service for delivery to the final destination. While there is no deadline for receiving ballots at the U.S. Embassy, each state has a different deadline for receiving absentee ballots, so please plan accordingly. Place your materials in a postage paid return envelope (available under “Downloadable Election Materials” on the FVAP homepage) or in an envelope bearing sufficient domestic U.S. postage, and address it to the relevant local election officials.
- Never received your ballot? If you registered to vote and requested an absentee ballot prior to your state’s registration deadline, but have not yet received your ballot, complete and return a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to ensure your vote reaches election officials by your state’s deadline. If your regular ballot arrives later, complete and return it as well. Your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot will only be counted if your regular ballot does not reach local election officials by your state’s deadline. Your vote will not be counted twice.
- New this year – email to fax service by FVAP! – the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) will provide an email-to-fax conversion service for voters who have difficulty sending election materials to States that do not accept emailed documents. Get more information here.
Researching the Candidates and Issues: Online Resources. Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues. Non-partisan information about candidates, their voting records, and their positions on issues are widely available and easy to obtain online. You can also read national and hometown newspapers online, or search the internet to locate articles and information. For information about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP’s Voting Alerts (email@example.com). FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.
Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website, FVAP.gov. If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact U.S. Embassy Panama’s Voting Assistance Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, your vote counts!
Be absent but accounted for!