Per a little piece of U.S. legislation called the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (or UOCAVA – if that makes it any easier), U.S. military servicemen and women and their families can cast votes from England, Japan, Germany – any foreign country in which they’re stationed – easier than ever before.
Casting a Military Personnel Absentee Ballot
An absentee ballot is just what it sounds like – a voting ballot for someone who’s absent. Absentee ballots allow people to exercise their right to vote even when they’re not able to get to the polling place. They’re common among college students, vacationers, and anyone who’s going to be out of town or out of state during an election.
However, people can use them when they’re out of the country, too. This includes military servicemen and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and other armed forces, as well as their family members.
Federal and State Elections
The U.S. Department of Defense assigned UOCAVA responsibilities to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).
To get started, all you have to do is visit the FVAP online and:
- Choose the option for uniformed service members and family members.
- Choose your state.
- Follow the instructions.
NOTE: It’s up to each state to implement the UOCAVA, so exact requirements can vary, including whether you’re required to have a witness or get the ballot notarized.
Some states allow military service personnel to use the FVAP to vote in local elections; other states want voters to use their own absentee ballot system.
You can check your state’s election office for further details.
Tips for Voting Absentee
- Not registered? Don’t worry. You can both register to vote and vote using the same form, at the same time.
- Request an absentee ballot at least 90 days before the election. FVAP recommends doing so each January, just to be safe.
- States and territories must send absentee ballots 45 days before an election. 30 days away and no ballot? Contact the election office and the FVAP. You might be eligible for back-up ballot.
- Send your ballot from wherever YOU are. DON’T mail it to a family member or friend in the United States and have that person send it in. Your vote could go uncounted if the envelope doesn’t have an overseas postmark.
- Some states allow absentee voters to fax and even e-mail their ballots. Check your state’s stance on this if you’re running short on time.
- Follow up with the government office receiving your ballot. Make sure your ballot arrived.
Have you ever been stationed overseas and voted using an absentee ballot? How was the process for you?