Anna McClellan headshotYour Guide to Absentee Ballots

Special thanks to Fall 2022 student Anna McClellan for this guest feature on absentee ballots and voting while abroad!

By Anna McClellan: 

Ok, going abroad is a big deal, and there’s a ton of things you need to do before you leave. You have to make sure you have your passport, your visa, all the clothes you need, phone plans in place, and the list just seems to go on forever…

However, there is one extremely important thing that may or may not slip your mind before you leave: your absentee ballot.

Your Absentee Ballot is your way of voting when you are out-of-state this fall, and it’s a great way for you to still use your voice to help your home community while abroad!

In this blog, I will break down everything you need to successfully request your absentee ballot.

What is an absentee ballot?

An absentee ballot is a way to vote when you are unable to physically be at the polls. This may apply to you if you live out-of-state, have a disability or sickness, or are unable to be at the polls for a “valid excuse”. Oftentimes they are called “mail-in ballots” too. Instead of submitting your vote in person, you submit it via mail. Some states give the option to vote online instead.

By signing up for an absentee ballot, you’ll be able to vote while you’re abroad with Verto.

What will you need to request your absentee ballot*?

  • Computer
  • Pen with Black or Blue Ink
  • Phone
  • State Issued I.D.
  • Your Voter I.D. (which you can get here)
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Residence Address

*Requirements for each state vary

By signing up for an absentee ballot, you’ll be able to vote while you’re abroad with Verto.

Step 1: Register to Vote

You have to be registered to vote in order to request an absentee ballot.  

If you need to register to vote, check out this link for your states guidelines and to register! Even if you aren’t 18 yet, you can still register! In most states you just have to be 17 years and 10 months old. 

Voter registration rules for each state can be found here.  

Don’t know if you’re registered? Check your voter registration status here.

By signing up for an absentee ballot, you’ll be able to vote while you’re abroad with Verto.

Step 2: Request Your Absentee Ballot

The idea of getting an absentee ballot can be daunting. However, it’s really not that difficult! As long as you are registered to vote in your state, you are able to request one. If you won’t be old enough by the time you leave, you can have a family member or guardian request the ballot for you. 

Although it varies by state, generally the process looks like: 

  1. Print your ballot request form or apply online. 
  2. Fill out the form with black or blue ink (if printed).
  3. Mail your form to your county clerk (if printed).
  4. Wait to receive your ballot in the mail.
  5. Fill out your ballot and send it back! 

Here is a link to a google doc with all 50 states Absentee Ballot Request forms linked via fvap.gov:

Absentee Ballot Request Forms/Information

Some states are not directly linked to a printable or online form because you have to contact your local Absentee Election Manager. 

After you fill out the rest of your form, take a picture or scan it so you have documentation, and then mail it to your local Election Clerk. They will review it and you should receive your ballot when it is time for the election!

Step 3: Familiarize Yourself with Your State’s Rules

It’s important to keep in mind that each state has its own deadlines and rules surrounding when you can change your mailing address, when your ballot is due, and more. 

You want to make sure your vote counts, so read up on your state’s guidelines here. (Find your state in the list below the form). Some states may not even allow you to request your ballot until closer to election day, so be sure to make reminders or mark on your calendar when request forms and ballots are due.

Step 4: Wait Until It’s Time to Vote

So you’ve sent in your Absentee Ballot Request Form, now what?!

Now it’s just a waiting game. You’ll receive your ballot to your address abroad this fall, and when you do, fill it out ASAP and get it back in the mail to send your vote from abroad. With shipping delays, it’s important that you fill out and mail your ballot as soon as you can so it’s counted.

Questions You May Have

What address will I send my filled-out ballot to?

Most states will send a pre-addressed envelope that you will send your ballot back in, however in the event that you need to use your own envelope, mail it back to your election clerk (the same address you used to mail in your request form) and label it “ELECTION MAIL”.

Will I need to buy stamps?

Most states legally require Election Mail to be sent with pre-paid postage, meaning the stamps would be provided for you. A list of those states can be found here.

If your state is not on this list or in the event that you aren’t provided pre-paid postage, you will need to provide the postage yourself. It may be helpful to bring stamps (must be International Global Forever stamps, which can be purchased here), or if you want to purchase stamps from where you are staying you can do that as well and your on-site staff can help.

How do I mail something from abroad?

To mail something from abroad you will need international postage (see above) and after it is addressed and ready to send, you can drop it off at the local post office or mail collection site. Your on-site staff can tell you where those are located if you’re not sure. 

Who is on my ballot?

Check out who is on your ballot at www.vote411.org

What if I can’t apply for my ballot yet?

If you are not yet 18, you should start by registering to vote if possible. Most states allow you to register as long as you are 17 years and 9 months old. 

If your state doesn’t allow ballots to be requested yet, and the request has to be mailed in, you can ask a family member or guardian to request them on your behalf when it becomes available to you so that you can still vote while abroad.

You Can Do This!

Although adding another task to the to-do list is never fun, it’s an important one, and I encourage you to get started as soon as possible. I hope these tips have helped! 

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me annamcclellan04@gmail.com, or check out https://www.fvap.gov/, The Federal Voting Assistance Program, for more information!

Do you picture yourself voting from abroad? Submit your application today to travel the world with Verto!  

"I Voted" stickers with American flags. Did you know that you can vote while abroad with an absentee ballot?!