By Sunita Sohrabji/EMS contributing editor
U.S. citizens residing outside the country can vote in the November general election but must request a ballot by Sept. 18.
“As we engage in a massive Get Out The Vote effort across the US, let’s not forget our relatives and friends who are US citizens living abroad. They, too, can — and must — exercise their franchise in this most critical of elections,” said the South Asian American organization They See Blue, in an e-mail to its members.
Approximately nine million U.S. citizens reside abroad, representing a significant voting bloc. 1.5 million U.S. citizens reside in Mexico; 700,000 reside in India, and 600,000 reside in the Philippines, according to 2019 data from the State Department.
U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections regardless of the amount of time they have lived abroad. U.S. citizens who have never lived in the U.S. are also eligible to vote in federal elections, according to the State Department.
Eligibility to vote in state and local elections does require maintaining a home in the last state of residence.
Under the provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act U.S., citizens and military personnel residing abroad who wish to vote must request their ballot each year by filling out a Federal Post Card Application. The request for a ballot abroad must be renewed each year: ballots are not automatically mailed out.
While each state has varying deadlines to apply for an absentee ballot, the State Department suggests applying for the FPCA at least 45 days before election, to allow for ample processing time. Ideally, noted the State Department, the renewal request for an absentee ballot should be mailed to the local election office at the start of each calendar year.
Applicants must select the requirements for the state in which they are eligible to vote, the last address they lived in while in the U.S. American citizens who were born abroad and have never lived in the U.S. can also vote by using the last residence at which their parents lived to determine the state and municipality where they are eligible to vote.
The Overseas Vote Foundation notes that overseas voters don’t need to have any current ties with your previous address or state. There is absolutely no requirement for overseas voters to continue to maintain a residence or to own property in the U.S. in order to vote in federal elections. Additionally, voters do not need a mailing address in the U.S. All voting-related material will be sent to the overseas address. (https://bit.ly/3hcFisi)
The filled-out ballot can be returned by fax, email, or mail, depending on a state’s requirements. Ballots can also be returned in diplomatic pouches.
All ballots must be postmarked before or by Nov. 3, in order to be counted. California and Texas allow ballots to be submitted online or by fax. New York and New Jersey require mail-in ballots. A state’s requirements can be checked online at fvap.gov. The Federal Voting Assistance Program offers a map containing state-by-state eligibility requirements.
Eligible voters who have not received an absentee ballot in time to vote can use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. (https://www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Forms/fwab2013.pdf) The ballot must be mailed back to local election officials by Nov. 3.
U.S. citizens who have not voted in two or more previous elections may have been stricken from their state’s voting rosters: voters can check-in online with their Secretary of State’s office, using the last address at which they voted, to determine if they are still eligible to vote.
They See Blue noted that U.S. citizens residing abroad who are eligible to vote may not be doing so because of possible tax ramifications. The State Department noted that voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect federal or state tax liability, but may affect state tax liability. It encouraged voters to consult with an attorney.
The State Department’s advisory can be found here: https://bit.ly/3lVBlfn.
This story first appeared in indiawest.com