Voting from Abroad as a US Expat - A Guide
Updated: Mar 13
Many Americans living abroad either aren’t aware that they're eligible to vote in US federal, state, and local elections, or don’t know how to. As expats have to file US taxes though, they also have the right to vote, and expat votes have the potential to make a difference, particularly in close contests.
Although the registration process and requirements can seem convoluted at times, it’s important to effectively exercise your right to vote and play an active part in molding the future of your nation, particularly as, despite living abroad, laws made in the US still affect you.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
• Who can vote from abroad?
• Determining your voting residence
• Voting from abroad procedure
• Who can vote from abroad
• Does voting from abroad affect your US taxes?
Who can vote from abroad?
United States citizens who currently reside outside the country and who satisfy specific qualifying requirements can register to vote. These requirements are that you have to be at least 18 years old, and you need to register in the US state where you last resided.
Determining your voting residence
In most cases, the state in which you most recently lived or the state with which you have the strongest links is considered your US voting residence. To guarantee that your vote will be counted, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the voter registration requirements and absentee ballot application deadlines in your state. Even if you are only interested in voting in federal elections, you still need a voting home where you’re registered to vote by absentee ballot.
This dwelling may still be considered genuine even if:
·You no longer have any links to that state, including ownership of any property there.
· It needs to be clarified whether or not you intend to return to that condition.
· Your primary address is no longer valid as a residential address in the United States
There are some Americans citizens living abroad who have never resided in the US, such as the children of US citizens who were born abroad. They may also be able to vote if their American parents last lived in one of 36 US states.
Voting from abroad procedure
The voting procedure consists of two steps:
Annually, you must provide your local election authorities with a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). This allows them to:
· Verify that you are qualified to vote
· Add your name to a list to be sent absentee ballots
You will then receive an absentee ballot in blank either online or in the mail. You need to fill out the ballot and send it back in time for it to arrive before the date set by your state.
To vote absentee in a federal election, if you have yet to receive your blank ballot at least 30 days before the election, you should utilize a federal write-in absentee ballot.
How to vote from abroad
1 - Find out where you're registered to vote
As mentioned, the state where you most recently lived is normally considered your voting residence. For example, this may be the place where you were born and raised, where you attended school, or where you own property.
Next, research the rules and deadlines that govern voter registration and requests for absentee ballots in your state, since they can differ from state to state. In addition, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) provides information on state-specific voting restrictions.
2 - Become a registered voter and submit a request to vote absentee
After identifying the location where you are eligible to vote and researching the rules and deadlines, the next step is to sign up for voter registration and ask for an absentee ballot. This may be done either via the FVAP website, online or by mail, or through the embassy or consulate of the United States in your residency.
If you have previously registered to vote but need to update your information, or if you have moved since then, you should request a new Federal Post Card Application (FCPA).
3 - Obtain a copy of your ballot
After your request for an absentee ballot has been approved, the state where you live will send you a ballot in one of three different ways: by mail, by fax, or by email, according to the rules in the state where you’re registered. Read the instructions on the ballot thoroughly and adhere to them to the letter to guarantee that your vote will be counted.
4 - Submit your vote
After you have finished marking your ballot, you have to submit it. Some states let you submit it electronically, otherwise, you can either mail it back to the address on the ballot, or deliver it to your nearest US embassy. If you can’t submit it electronically, you should allow plenty of time for either the postal service or your Embassy to return the ballot to the US, to ensure that your vote is counted.
5 - Follow up
After you have handed in your ballot, you should follow up with the election authorities in the state where you’re registered to confirm that your ballot has been received and that your vote counted. In addition, you may be able to check whether your ballot was received and counted using the tools provided on the FVAP website.
Does voting affect your US taxes?
Your US federal tax filing status will not be impacted in any way if you vote from abroad as an expat.
US individuals residing outside the country are still required to comply with US tax regulations, which include declaring their income from anywhere in the world and submitting annual tax returns.
In addition, several states in the United States have particular regulations regulating the collection of state income taxes from residents of those states who are residing outside the country.
It is of course up to you to understand and comply with these regulations. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and other requirements compel US residents outside the country to declare any foreign bank accounts and assets they have, too.
Useful links and organizations
Federal Voting Assistance Program - https://www.fvap.gov/citizen-voter
American Citizens Abroad - https://www.americansabroad.org/information/voting-and-representation/
Vote From Abroad - https://www.votefromabroad.org/
US Vote Foundation - https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote-from-abroad-overseas-voting
Overseas Vote Foundation - https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/vote/home.htm
Democrats Abroad - https://www.democratsabroad.org/voting
Republicans Overseas - https://republicansoverseas.com/#register
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.
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