Two weeks and one day to the US Election Day, November 6. Monday night in the good ol’ U.S. of A. is the third and final Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and opponent former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney… But have you requested your absentee ballot?
My mom joined me in Manila a few days ago, and she hadn’t early voted nor requested an absentee ballot. And yes, she still wants to vote. She lives in Florida, too, so it’s extra important. Knowing that international post can take three or four weeks for delivery one-way, here is our plan to get her vote in:
1: Confirm voter registration. Unregistered, eligible voters can register using the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA). Some counties/states offer its voters the ability to confirm their registration online.
2: Preview what’s up for a vote by finding a sample ballot. Anyone can preview the ballot, even if you are not absentee or early voting – helpful, especially if the ballot is full of judges, referenda and amendments to the state constitution.
3: Check the deadlines. Every state sets deadlines for when voters can request absentee ballots and when those absentee ballots need to be received by the local election office to be counted and when those absentee ballots need to be postmarked to be considered valid.
4: Request an absentee ballot from local election officials. Depending on the state, voters can request an absentee ballot by mail, fax, email or online. Since there are less than 30 days to the election, use electronic means of requesting an absentee ballot, i.e. don’t use the mail!
5: Fill out and return the absentee ballot to local election officials. Depending on the state’s regulations, a witness/notarization may be required. US Embassy may be able to assist with witness requirements.
States the Federal Voting Assistance Program:
When mailed from any U.S. post office, U.S. embassy or consulate, or APO/FPO mail facility, the hardcopy voter registration/absentee ballot form is postage-paid. In order to receive free postage, the online version of the form must be mailed in an envelope printed with our postage-paid envelope template.
Some US Embassies – like the one in Manila – will deliver the ballots home for free, no postage necessary if you bring it there. Voters abroad – depending on the state where they will cast their vote – also have the option of sending their ballots to local election officials by regular post, by email, internet or by fax.
6: Complete and send a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB as .PDF ) to local election officials as a back-up. Return the FWAB in the same manner as the absentee ballot in step 5. According to the US Embassy in Paris, voters in these states can email or fax their signed, voted Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots to local election officials: Arizona, California (fax only), Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.
Says the Federal Voting Assistance Program:
If you requested an absentee ballot but have not received one close to Election Day, you can still vote by using the back-up Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). In order to be eligible to use this back-up ballot, you must:
Be absent from your voting residence;
Have applied for a regular ballot early enough so the request is received by the appropriate local election official not later than the State deadline; or the date that is 30 days before the general election; AND
Have not received the requested regular absentee ballot from the State.
Vote with the FWAB In case your absentee ballot doesn’t show up to your overseas address. And even if you voted using an absentee ballot from local officials, send a back-up vote with the FWAB – in case your completed absentee ballot is somehow lost returning to the US. If your election officials recieve BOTH ballots, they will count only one of the ballots. Says the US State Department:
Contact the Voting Assistance Officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulatefor help, or visit FVAP.gov to complete the FWAB using their online wizard. Write in the candidates of your choice, and send it to your local election official. If your regular absentee ballot arrives later, fill it out and send it back too. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot doesn’t reach your local election officials by your state’s deadline. Following this procedure will not invalidate your vote or result in two votes being cast. [emphasis added]
HERE’S THE REALLY INTERESTING CATCH: The state may not allow registered voters to vote on all items on the regular ballot with the FWAB. For example in Florida, absentee voters using the FWAB can only vote on elected officials. On the Florida ballot, twelve amendments to the state constitution are up for a vote; FL absentee voters using the FWAB cannot vote on the constitutional amendments.