Where do I get my ballot?
There are two types of ballots that Americans outside of the United States can use.
The second option is the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB is a The FWAB should be your go-to option if you haven’t received your ballot within 30 days of the election. It can be obtained online or, generally, through your embassy. If your regular absentee ballot does eventually arrive, you should complete it and send it back too. The FWAB will only count if your regular absentee 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. Some states allow its voters to submit the FWAB as both their ballot and registration.
How to send my ballot back to the United States?
- Local mail: Generally speaking, the least effective way would be to send your ballot via snail mail (regular post). This is because of the issues with efficiency. Many national postal services are greatly inefficient and if you’re pressed for time, it could take an unbelievably long time to get your ballot back to the electoral officials in your state. In 2012, many ballots were lost or delayed at customs because of the damage Hurricane Sandy wrecked on the east coast. In some instances, it took nearly three weeks for a ballot to be cleared from customs in New York, only to be further delayed by the USPS and eventually arrive past the deadline to the board of elections.
- U.S. Embassy Pouch/APO/FPO: Drop your ballot off at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. American embassies and consulates also use the United States Postal Service to send along your ballot. This option appears to be more efficient than mailing it back from the national postal service since the mail that the embassies and consulates send back cannot be intercepted at borders. This means your ballot is unlikely to get held up by customs officials. That said, your ballot must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient postage or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP web site (downloads a PDF file).
- Email, Fax, and via the Internet: A number of states now allow the electronic return of voted ballots. Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Voting Assistance Guide for electronic transmission options for your state.
- Express Courier Service: If you’re short on time and local mail is unreliable (the USPS can also be unreliable with several weeks left to go), send your ballot back by expedited services like FedEx, UPS, or DHL. These companies are generally more efficient in delivering your ballot on time, but they’re costly. In recent years, FedEx has done the stand-up thing and offered discounts for American voters who wish to send their ballots back.