Tips for Voting as a U.S. Expat

In any election year, it’s important for U.S. expats working abroad to know how to register to vote as well as send and track a ballot

For U.S. citizens, 2020 is yet another big election year. Registered voters can make their voices heard to choose a President and their state and local representatives, as well as decide on local and statewide issues. For U.S. expats, voting from abroad is a necessary component to participating in the democratic process. Tips for voting as an expat make it easier.

Resources for U.S. Expats Voting from Abroad

Resources abound for U.S. expats needing to register and vote absentee from overseas. Organizations like Vote from Abroad explain that as an overseas voter, you must send in a request ballot form every calendar year you plan to vote in by filling out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which covers the voter for every election in the calendar year – primary, general, and special. Voters can fill out the FPCA form through organizations like Vote from Abroad, as well as the Nonpartisan Voter Services for U.S. Citizens Overseas and Uniformed Service Members, and the Federal Voting Assistance Program. These resources allow the voter to track their voter registration and ballots and can point voters to state-specific voting guides, important election dates, identification requirements, and candidate finders.

The Voting from Abroad Process

According to the U.S. Department of State, ballots are generally mailed to voters at least 30 days before primary, special, and run-off elections. Forty-five days before November general elections, such as the one taking place this year, states will send overseas voters a blank ballot electronically or through the mail. Once the ballot is filled out, voters can drop off their ballot request or official ballot at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate using U.S. postage or a postage-paid envelope. While some states permit electronic submissions, it’s always important to check the state’s voting guide.

Additional Considerations for Voting Overseas

Voting from abroad can be made simple with these resources, but questions may arise in the process. For instance, voting in state and local races may result in tax liability for certain locations. According to the Overseas Voting Foundation, “If you vote for state or local offices, under state law, the act of voting could conceivably be used to establish your domicile and therefore your liability to pay the state income tax.” However, voting in federal elections will never affect tax liability. It’s important to be aware of any state and local liabilities by consulting with tax professionals.

Such steps and resources can make participating in the democratic process of voting easier while working or living outside of the U.S. No matter the election or location, U.S. expats can ensure that their voices are heard.

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