Voting Made Easy – Absentee Voting Basics
To vote from abroad, you must register with local election officials in your state of voting residence AND request an absentee ballot. But, you can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to do both. Submit a new FPCA early each year, every time you move, and whenever you change your address, email, or name.
U.S. citizens abroad must submit a new FPCA each year to vote in U.S. elections. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample time to process your request and resolve any problems.
Registration/Absentee Ballot Requests – Completing the Federal Post Card Application
Start at the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website, where an online assistant walks you through the process. You can also pick up an FPCA and copy of your state’s requirements from U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, or from many overseas U.S. citizen civic or political groups. You can always return your FPCA by mail. In addition, most states allow you to send in your FPCA by fax or email. Consult the online Voting Assistance Guide for your state’s current instructions.
If you need help completing or submitting the form, contact the voting assistance officer at the U.S. Embassy in Suva by sending an email to VoteSuva@state.gov, or via telephone at +679 331 4466.
Receiving your Ballot
Forty-five days before November general elections, your state will send you a blank ballot either electronically or via mail at the address you provided on your FPCA.
Ballots will generally be mailed out 30 days before primary, special, and run-off elections. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections or abbreviated ballots for federal office elections only.
States will send out a ballot for general elections 45 days prior to the date of the election. Ballots for primary, special, and run-off elections will be sent 30 days prior to the date of the election;
Voting and Returning Your Ballot
Complete your ballot carefully, legibly, and as early as possible. Make sure to return it to local election officials in time to meet your state’s deadline.
Overseas voters have a number of options for returning completed ballots:
- Local mail – If you have a reliable mail service to the United States, put your ballot in the mail with appropriate international postage.
- U.S. Embassy Diplomatic Pouch – You or another person can drop off your ballot request (FPCA) or completed ballot at the U.S. Embassy in Suva between the hours of 11:00am and 2:00pm, Monday to Friday, for return to the United States via Diplomatic Pouch. The envelope must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient U.S. postage, or be in a postage-paid envelope. The Diplomatic Pouch is sent out from the U.S. Embassy weekly. If you require additional services or a different time to drop off your voting documents, please request an appointment by sending an email to VoteSuva@state.gov.
A postage-paid envelope to return your ballot is available on the FVAP website. Voting documents can be brought to the U.S. Embassy in Suva between the hours of 11:00am and 2:00pm Monday to Friday to be delivered to the U.S. in the next U.S. Embassy Diplomatic Pouch. Normal transit time for the Pouch to arrive at the local elections office in the U.S. is 21 days.
- Fax, Email, or Internet – Some states permit electronic transmission of completed ballots. Consult the Voting Assistance Guide for options in your state.
- Express Courier Service – If time is short or local mail unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS at your own expense. NOTE: FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
Verifying Your Registration
Most states have websites to verify voter registration. If you are unsure of your status or want to confirm that local officials have received and approved your registration, check the FVAP website for a directory of state voter registration verification websites. You can also write, email, or call local election officials directly.
Using an Emergency Write-In Ballot
If you completed all required steps but have not received your ballot 30 days before an election, submit a completed Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Contact the voting assistance officer at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for help, or visit the FVAP website to complete an FWAB using the online assistant. Write in the candidates of your choice, then print, sign, and send the FWAB to your local election officials. If your regular absentee ballot arrives after submitting a FWAB, you should still complete and return it. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot does not reach local election officials by your state’s deadline. This will not invalidate your vote or result in casting two votes.
Learn more about the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) from the FVAP website, www.FVAP.gov. If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Suva at VoteSuva@state.gov.