The top reason absentee ballots are rejected is that they arrive too late.
By Kat Cary
Can I tell you a secret? It’s quite easy to vote overseas nowadays. I was active duty military for over a decade, and I have voted more times overseas than I have under them. It’s gotten so much easier over the years, and I’d like to share some tips on voting from overseas, and ensuring your absentee ballot arrives on time.
1. Request your ballot now to beat the autumn rush
First things first, register and request your ballot at Vote from Abroad. I recommend using your mobile device, as long as you have a pen and piece of paper handy, you can take a photo of your signature and get it done in one sitting. It takes about the same amount of time as reading this article. Make sure to check submission rules, primary and general election deadlines for your state or territory to identify the best voting option for you.
2. Request your ballot to be delivered to you by email
I recommend requesting ballot delivery by email (if your state allows) — you can even leave two email addresses to ensure you receive your ballot — I have received both an early sample ballot, and my election ballot by email for the last 4 years and I have never had an issue with it. Election officials are required to send out ballots 45 days before the day of the general election. Primaries, special, and run-off elections generally arrive 30 days prior to the election date. Requesting a ballot via email ensures you will receive your blank ballot with the maximum time to return it within the required timeframe.
3. Fill out your ballot within 3 days of receiving it
It’s so important to turn in your completed absentee ballot as soon as possible. My voting state emails sample ballots, so I am ready to fill in my ballot as it arrives, but you can also access a sample ballot via Ballotpedia.
Concerned you haven’t received your blank ballot in time? You can fill out a ‘back-up ballot’, officially called a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) by following the instructions.
4. Return your ballot electronically if your state allows it
There are currently 29 states that accept voted ballots by email, fax, or online upload. This eliminates a lot of hassle of relying on the postal services, paying for expensive courier fees, or using the services at your local US embassy, but there are a few things to keep in mind for submitting a ballot electronically:
- If you are using an online upload, please make sure your connection is secure to maintain anonymity.
- If your state only allows return by fax (not email) and you don’t have access to a fax machine, there are several free fax apps that can be found via your mobile platform.
- Submissions by fax or email will not be sealed, requiring you to waive your right to a secret ballot, but your Local Election Official (LEO) is required to separate any identifying information after verifying the signature, and no one should be able to tell how you voted.
No matter what method you choose to vote from abroad, you should receive a confirmation email that your ballot has been received and counted. I love receiving that email. I consider it a personalized ‘I Voted’ sticker. Voting from overseas is really rewarding. Staying involved in the democratic process while living overseas has given me greater perspective in these troubled times. I find it very empowering when I make my voice heard by taking part in the democratic process.
Kat Cary is a Florida voter living in Edinburgh, Scotland.
A version of this article was originally published in the London Economic and by Vote From Abroad on Medium.