How to vote in the US presidential election from abroad

Relocate Global's guide to voting in the 2016 Presidential Election, for US citizens living and working abroad.

how to vote in the US election
At Relocate Global, we are often asked by members of the global mobility world, 'How do I vote in the US election if I’m an American citizen but live outside of the US?'Whether you plan to vote for the Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton or the Republican Party’s Donald Trump, or a third-party candidate like the progressive Green Party’s Jill Stein or the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, no matter where you are in the world, you are eligible to vote in the 2016 US Presidential election. In this crucial election, votes from abroad can make all the difference.However, you must act quickly.  Many states have a 30-day deadline for requesting your absentee ballot (though other states require you register and request your ballot at least 90 days before the election).

Steps to register to vote in the upcoming US Presidential Election:

  1. Request a ballot using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) form from the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.  The site has an online assistant that will “walk you through completion of the form and provides a populated fillable PDF”. 
  2. Once you have completed the online registration form for your US election ballot, make sure to print and sign the form.
  3. Post the form to your local election office.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) was set up to 'ensure that US military service members and their eligible family members, and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so – from anywhere in the world'.Once you have received your ballot, you should:
  1. Choose your candidate and vote
  2. Post your completed US election ballot to the address specified
Note that in order to be eligible to vote in US elections, using an absentee ballot, you must be:
  • a U.S. citizen 
  • at least 18 years old 
  • be absent from your voting residence

I live in the UK. Can I vote in person at a polling station?

Update:  Unfortunately not.  You will only be able to vote via an absentee ballot.

How can I make sure my ballot is received in time to be counted towards this election?

Your completed ballot should be postmarked and mailed on or before Election Day. Note that some states only count ballots that were received before or on Election Day – so you should make sure to mail your ballot several weeks before Election Day to ensure your ballot is received in time.If you use regular mail to post your ballot, make sure the date on the postmark (on or before election day) is clearly visible. Make sure to write USA on the envelope, to speed the USPS sorting and delivery process.

Can I check the status of my absentee ballot?

Some people are understandably concerned about whether a vote from abroad will count. Several states, such as California, allow you to track the progress of your absentee ballot. You can access this on the website.

I've not received my absentee ballot in time – what can I do?

You should receive your US election ballot 30 days before the election. However, things do go wrong with the post, unfortunately. If you've not received your ballot in time, you'll need to complete the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) using the online assistant at the website.If your normal ballot arrives after you've sent this off, complete your normal ballot as well. Your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot is only counted if your normal ballot isn't received in time.

What's the point in sending in an absentee ballot – are votes from abroad counted?

Yes, votes from outside of the US are most definitely counted. They can even influence the outcome of a US election, such as when overseas voters changed the course of the 2000 election when Bush defeated Gore.Read more about how your vote from abroad can influence the US Presidential election, via Oxford University's Rothermere American Institutes's website.Help with voting in US elections from abroad can be found here:Or, you can email with specific questions.Whatever party or whichever candidate you choose to vote for in this 2016 US Presidential election, make sure your voice is heard.Note that this article was updated on 4 October 2016, to reflect the fact that it is not possible to cast your vote at an overseas polling station.

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