Under U.S. law, qualified American citizens residing abroad may register and vote by absentee ballot in their state of last residence. The designated Voting Officer at any consular section can provide information on the registration and voting process and will help you in complying with your home state's laws. U.S. citizens cannot vote at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General. The electoral process is administered by each individual state and you vote by mailing an absentee ballot to your home state.
- Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act
- New Procedures for 2010 Elections
- Overseas Absentee Ballot Requests
- State Department Recommendations
- Emergency Ballots
- General Information
- American Citizens voting in Foreign Elections
- Links to More Information
On October 28, 2009, Congress enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. This legislation amends existing law regarding overseas voting in federal elections, and should make voting easier for overseas Americans.
Beginning with the November 2010 general election, and for all subsequent general, special, and primary elections, states will be required to mail out ballots at least 45 days prior to an election for a federal office. This requirement may cause some states to select earlier primary dates in order to comply with the 45 day mailing deadline, or to request waivers due to special circumstances.
In addition to mailing ballots to overseas voters, the states will be required, at the voter's request, to provide registration forms, absentee ballot request forms, and blank ballots via fax or email. However, each state's laws determine whether ballot requests or voted ballots can be returned via fax or email. The new law prohibits states from rejecting marked ballots based on notarization, paper size, or paper weight requirements. The witnessing requirements of individual states remain in place.
Effective immediately, states will no longer be required by federal law to continue to mail election materials to overseas addresses (even when they are determined to be invalid) for two complete general election cycles on the basis of a single ballot request. It will now be up to each state to determine how long to continue to send out election materials before requiring overseas voters to submit new ballot requests. This change, sought by local election officials, should greatly decrease the volume of voting materials sent abroad to addresses where Americans no longer reside.
In light of these changes, the Department of State recommends that all U.S. voters residing abroad request absentee ballots from their local election officials at the start of each calendar year, and whenever there is a change of address, change of e-mail address, or change of name, by completing and sending in a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). To locate information on your specific state's requirements, and to obtain an on-line version of the FPCA, please visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's website. Voters may also pick up a hard copy of the FPCA from any U.S. embassy or consulate. FPCAs may be mailed to your local voting officials in the United States via international mail or from any U.S. embassy or consulate. Many states allow U.S. citizens overseas to submit the FPCA by e-mail or fax.
The Department of State strongly encourages all U.S. overseas voters to provide e-mail addresses or fax numbers on their FPCAs to enable local election officials to transmit election materials in the fastest manner available, which should then allow sufficient time for the return of voted ballots. For information regarding your specific state, please visit fvap.gov.
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) serves as an emergency ballot for the November general elections for federal offices, although some states also permit its use for elections for state and local offices.
Beginning in January 2011, the new law allows use of the FWAB for primary, special, and runoff elections for federal offices. Voters who request an absentee ballot in advance of their state's ballot request deadline, but who fail to receive an official ballot from local election officials in time to vote, should complete the Federal Write-In
Absentee Ballot and send it back to local election officials in time for it to be counted. An on-line version of the FWAB, together with instructions for its use, is available here.
The Voting Assistance Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa is also always available to answer questions about absentee voting. The Voting Assistance Officer can be contacted by phone (613-688-5335) or e-mail (VoteOttawa@state.gov).
For official information on voting from abroad, you may also consult the Department of Defense Voting Assistance Guide available from the voting assistance officer at your nearest Consular Section. It contains instructions on completing federal forms, gives suggestions on how to determine the state in which you should vote and summarizes state regulations on how to register and how to request ballots.
State voting laws differ with respect to registration and obtaining ballots. Acceptance or denial of voting applications is determined by state officials. Depending on your state, you may register permanently, register temporarily or apply for an absentee ballot by waiving registration. You may do any of these with a Federal Post Card Application (82KB PDF), which is also available from the voting officer at the consular section nearest you.
The FPCA can be mailed postage-free by the consular section. However, international mail is often faster and should be used at your expense, particularly if you are mailing material shortly before your state's filing or election deadline.
If you make a timely application for an absentee ballot for a general federal election but do not receive it in time, you may also use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) which can be obtained at the consular section nearest you. You must provide proof that you have already applied for an absentee ballot before you are eligible to use the FWAB. It is valid only for federal elections. The FWAB can be mailed by the same methods as the FPCA but must show a return address from abroad. The FVAB website provides voting related information and resources.
Consular Voting Officers post notices of upcoming elections, notarize ballot materials when required, and perform similar voting-related duties. Please note, however, that voting officers do not provide information on candidates and issues. It is the voter's responsibility to keep informed on such matters.
In the past, a U.S. federal statute provided that voting in a foreign election was an "expatriating act" that resulted in loss of U.S. citizenship. In the decision of Afroyim vs. Rusk (1967), however, the U.S. Supreme Court held that expatriation by voting in a foreign election is unconstitutional and also laid down the rule that a U.S. citizen has a constitutional right to remain a citizen unless he or she voluntarily relinquishes that citizenship by intentionally performing an expatriating act.
- Federal Voting Assistance Program (telephone hotline for callers from Canada: 1-800-438-8683)
- Democrats Abroad Canada
Phone: (416) 916-2022 or (877) 336-2008
- Republicans Abroad Canada
Phone: (416) 595-8636
- The League of Women Voters
- Overseas Vote Foundation
- International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
- Project Vote Smart
- Federal Election Commission
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