How to Vote in the U.S. Election While Overseas

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 10th, 2012

I Voted election stickers from the US electionNow that the conventions are over, the candidates have been nominated, and the United States presidential election is just months away, it’s important that all Americans—at home and abroad—cast their ballots. Elections are important events, and if you don’t vote, you don’t have a say. I hate when people who don’t vote complain about politics. If you don’t participate, you don’t get to complain. And I want people to participate.

People don’t often vote while traveling or living abroad because they don’t know how, don’t have a fixed address, or think it’s a lot of work. During the last election in 2008, I didn’t know how to vote while overseas.

In the age of the Internet, it turns out that it’s quite easy to vote in an election while abroad. With just a few clicks, you can get the ball rolling, and there’s still time to get it done before the election this November.

Here’s how to vote in this US election:

Step 1 — Register to vote. If you’re already registered to vote, awesome! Head to Step 2. If not, it’s a free and simple process. You can register to vote in person, at the DMV, or by mail. Here’s a list of each state’s election office that gives you more information on where to go:

Find Your Local Election Office

If you’re already overseas, you’ll have to print out the forms listed on your state’s election website and mail them to your election office.

Or, you can visit the Federal Voter Assistance Program, complete the voter registration form online, and mail it back to them with postage. It’s a much quicker and simpler process.

Good Voting Resource: General Voting Resource from the Federal Government

Step 2 — After you’re registered to vote, there are two ways to cast your ballot overseas:

a) You can apply for an overseas ballot via your state’s election office by mailing in a form, having the ballot sent to you, and then mailing it back. A complicated process.

Or you can do it the easy way:

b) Go to the Federal Voter Assistance Program website and do it all online!

Step 3 — Go to FVAP and click on the state you’re registered to vote in to get state-specific information.

If you’re registering to vote via FVAP, you can mail in your registration and ballot at the same time. (You can also just print out the forms and hand write your answers.)

Step 4 — Download and print the PDF forms.

Step 5 — Put your ballot in an envelope, slap some postage on it, and mail it in.

Step 5 — Celebrate the fact that you voted!

The last election required you to do a lot more mailing of forms. It was way more work. This election is far easier. You can complete everything online, print it out, and mail it in. It’s all legal, and it’s all valid. I love the Internet Age!

This is one of the most important elections in years, so make sure you get your ballot and vote.

Being overseas is no excuse when all you have to do is go online, fill in some forms, and mail them home for free. So go do it.

comments 25 Comments

Sky

Thanks for much for sharing this information, Matt! Voting is such an important thing and I, like you, can’t stand when people complain about politics but don’t vote. You have a voice – use it!

So great that you published this! I sent in my registration weeks ago. There was a road trip going around Europe this summer visiting all the expat communities in major cities providing free advice on how to register – thought it was an immensely useful project.

Thanks for making it simple for us. I was wondering about how to vote internationally.

Very timely. Our friends were just asking us how we would vote but we hadn’t tried to figure it out yet. Now we know – Thanks!

Thanks Matt! We just finalized our absentee voting and went to the many places you suggested above. Ultimately what worked out for us was to send a note to the Florida Elections board in the county we live in and request an e-mailed ballot. Quite easy except for having to provide an overseas address for their records. Luckily we are in a set spot for a time so was able to provide one.
They will email us a ballot on Sept 21 and we will need to print and fax back to them. Seems like there are many more ways to vote overseas this election than the last one!
Cheers and safe travels!

The ironic (sad) thing is that in some states in the USA, thanks to voter suppression legislation passed by Republican state legislatures, it is easier to vote absentee than it is to show up to vote in person. Back to the future? So, make the effort to let your voice be counted.

Doug

Should I vote for Thelma, or Louise?

Great blog, but disagree with this post.

Anon

uh, what is there to disagree with? He is just telling people how they CAN vote (not WHO to vote for), and that it is important that constituents are active in the election process.

NomadicMatt

I think everyone should vote for me!! And if not me, my mini-me!

Mike

Good info, Matt, for people who want to vote overseas.

Tate, I ask the same questions. Also, when the person I want to elect is made to look stupid by the mass media (which means there’s almost no chance they will get elected) then I can’t simply vote for the lesser of two evils, as they say. In my opinion, the American system shouldn’t be internally separated (Democratic vs Republican), but should be ONE party – US (U.S. citizens) together and figuring out real solutions to real problems. The American system hasn’t been working for us for a long time now. Something has got to give. I don’t know what the exact answer is but simply voting for a party “because that’s the way it is and you should do it” just doesn’t cut it with me anymore.

Also, EVERYONE has the right to complain, whether they vote or not. That’s like saying if you don’t eat fast food then you can’t say how it’s not the best food for the body. If I know what is going on with my country and the system, and I don’t agree with it, then I can complain and talk about it. The thing is that complaining, no matter who does it, doesn’t solve anything. Really, all it does is waste your energy. Wouldn’t that energy be better used to get knowledge and try to solve something?

Besides, I voted for Obama because of what he said would get done (like make Monsanto label foods that are GMO) but he hasn’t done a lot of what he said he was. Unfortunately this seems to be a repeating pattern these days, no matter who is president.

Again, the system just isn’t working the way it is. Many people (the ones who research themselves and don’t rely on mainstream “news” to get their info) are getting pissed off with many things about America. Something has got to give.

Just voting and relying on a president/politician isn’t going to solve real problems.

Well…I for one am greatly appreciative of this post. I never knew how to vote abroad, and for people who are vagabonding, long-term traveling, or even expats, this is very helpful – because your voice DOES count. And voting does matter, because not every traveler wants to be ignorant about what is happening on the homefront. Thanks!

Jessica

Thank you!! I was not sure how to do it and I think if I hadn’t read your post the time would have snuck up on me and I would have remembered figure it out too late! We sure need the votes of the Americans who have experienced/are experiencing this world we live in!! Thanks again!

Good to see this post up. The more people that vote (that have a brain) the better. This election is frightening in the amount of FUD and straight lies being put out there.

NomadicMatt

All I want people to do is just vote!

God help the world if Bush’s Republicans return to the White House. Most travelers are usually liberal/liberal minded so hopefully they will vote from reading this article!

Jessica

Thank you! You write such helpful posts.
:)

Maria

I’m on the permanent early voting list but I will be leaving the US at the end of September and returning after the elections. Can someone at home send me my ballot or shall I ask for an absentee ballot?

NomadicMatt

You have to do it.

Amanda

Such a helpful post for travelers. It’s so important for every US citizen to vote, even if they are temporarily out of the country. Thanks for putting all the links together and making this an easily accessible resource!

Agreed. My stuff is already printed out; mailing it by the end of the week. Kudos to you for posting such pertinent information.

Good piece of awareness provided.Good topic of discussion you dig out.Generally
people don’t know much about this.Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece of
information.

Thanks so much for this post! I do have one question…I would like to receive the ballot by email. The application asks for my current address overseas, but since I’m traveling around a bit the next two months, is the address really relevant (since I’m getting it by email)?

Thanks again!

Krissy

So i’m a dual national, currently living abroad (after recently leaving the states). I would really like to vote in the upcoming elections…..would registering to vote abroad have any ramifications besides getting the vote? I’ve been trying to research it on the Internet but have struggled to find any information – do you have any ideas?

Thanks!

This is super helpful! I am currently teaching English in Taiwan and was wondering how I would be voting. This site is truly the go to site for everything travel related- Thanks NomadicMatt!

With the internet today, it is great how you can still be involved in things back home, though when it comes to family and friends, it’s not the same of course.

How do you convince family/friends to visit you if they don’t travel?!

Kidtiger

Thank you so much! Obama/Biden 2012! Peace out!

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