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Voting Becomes Easier for the Mobile Military Life5 minute read • Nov. 27, 2023
As a guardian of our nation, you protect the American way of life. And the Federal Voting Assistance Program is here to ensure that you and your family are able to exercise your right to vote.
About three-quarters of the 1.3 million active-duty service members are eligible to vote by absentee ballot due to their being stationed outside their voting jurisdictions. And thanks to amendments to the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (1986), it’s easier for relocated and overseas service members and spouses to register and submit absentee ballots.
Military Absentee Voting Made Simple
No matter where you are, the Federal Post Card Application helps you ensure that your vote is counted in a few simple steps.
Today, states are required to send ballots to service members and eligible family members at least 45 days before federal elections and to provide electronic options for voters to receive those ballots. The change boosted the rate of successfully counted absentee ballots sent from service members from 30% in 2006 to 53% in 2018.
FVAP helps you vote. Wherever you are.
FVAP provides assistance for service members and eligible family members to register to vote, request an absentee ballot and check the status of a ballot for federal offices no matter where they’re located.
Now it’s easier than ever to:
- Register to vote – whether it’s your first time, you have relocated or you have separated from the military
- Request your absentee ballot
- Vote and submit your absentee ballot
Most states require you to register to vote or request an absentee ballot to start the process. The expanded use of electronic options for sending and receiving federal election materials has made it much easier to vote by absentee ballot. That’s important as two-thirds of military voters are absentee voters.
It’s best to start the absentee voting process early. Here are easy ways to demonstrate your readiness and ensure that your vote is cast and counted:
- Use the Federal Post Card Application, which lets you easily register and request your ballot. When you receive your ballot, fill it out and send it in. Use FVAP’s easy online assistant to complete the application.
- Visit your Installation Voter Assistance Office for voting information and direct assistance. Drop by your IVAO at any time particularly when in-processing at a new duty station, deploying overseas or returning from deployment.
Many states allow you to submit your FPCA electronically, and all states accept at least one form of electronic transmission to send you a blank ballot. Many states accept the ballot by email or fax, while some only accept the ballot by mail. Mail delivery times vary based on where you live. If your state requires you to mail your ballot, then you can make sure your vote is counted by mailing your ballot early to allow for extra time.
Since voting materials that are mailed can’t be forwarded, it’s important for you to provide your election office with your new address after every move. Consider sending in a new FPCA every year. Also, federal elections can come up suddenly, even during non-election years. Submitting the FPCA each year helps ensure that you will receive a ballot for all federal elections for which you are eligible.
Voting when transitioning out of the military
If you are transitioning to civilian life, you should notify your election office of your change in voter registration status and update your information so you can vote locally in the next election. Depending on whether you are staying in the same voting district after military separation or if you are moving to a new state or county, there are just one or two easy steps to take, which you can find at https://www.fvap.gov/military-voter/transition.
When you want to vote – whether you’re entering the military, casting a ballot for the first time, relocating or transitioning or retiring from the military – and have questions about casting your ballot, your Installation Voter Assistance Office will likely have the answers. Go to FVAP.gov or call 800-438-VOTE (8683).
Federal Voting Assistance Program resources
COVID-19 updates: Voters can find helpful resources on FVAP.gov, including COVID-19 information and two visual maps that depict how states accept the FPCA or ballot.
Envelopes: Voters can also download postage-paid envelope templates that will allow them to mail back their voting materials free of charge from any military post at a military installation or via a diplomatic pouch at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.
Languages: Voters who prefer to read absentee voting information in Arabic, French or Spanish can find translations of instructions for filling out the FPCA and Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.
Installation Voting Assistance Office: Active-duty military and military spouses can find and get help from their IVAO.
Subscribe: Voters can also subscribe to receive voting emails.
Calendars: Voters also have access to voting alerts and calendar reminders for their state.
Social media: Voters can follow FVAP on social media to tune in to Facebook Live events, absentee voting best practices and more.