The official U.S. Government resource for overseas absentee voters is the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website. Another useful resource is the Overseas Vote Foundation website. The Overseas Vote Foundation is a non-partisan voter advocacy organization.
Current federal law grants U.S. citizens overseas the right to vote in federal elections. Many states have also enacted legislation that gives certain categories of citizens the right to vote by absentee ballot for state or local officials.
How do I register and vote overseas?
You may follow the same straightforward process to obtain ballots for both federal and local elections. You need to submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to the voting officials in the appropriate state in the United States. Once they have received it and confirmed your registration, they will send you an absentee ballot by mail, e-mail, or fax. You can then fill out and return this ballot according to the instructions provided along with the ballot itself. Unfortunately, the Embassy and the Consulate General in Poland do not supply ballots, nor can you vote there.
In which state should I vote?
You vote in the state where you have a "voting residence." A voting residence is the legal residence or domicile in which you could vote if you were present in that state. The rules for determining that state depend on your status overseas.
• Overseas citizens (not affiliated with the U.S. Government) must vote in their last state of residence immediately prior to departure from the United States. This rule applies even if the voter no longer maintains a residence in that state or has any intention of returning to it.
• Military and Merchant Marine members, and their spouses and dependents, may register to vote in the state that the member claims as his or her residence.
• Civilian U.S. Government employees overseas, and their spouses and dependents, generally register in the state they claim as their legal residence.
• American citizens who have never resided in the United States should apply to the state where their American citizen parent(s) last resided, although they should be aware that not all states will grant such a request. Please refer to the state instructions.
What steps should I follow to register?
Take these three steps to register to vote abroad:
• obtain an application, called a Federal Post Card Application;
• complete it; and,
• mail the application to your state registrar at the address provided on the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
Step One: Obtaining the Application. You may obtain a Federal Post Card Application in a number of different ways. You may print one from the Federal Voting Assistance Program website or the Overseas Vote Foundation website; pick one up at the American Citizens Services Units of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw or U.S. Consulate General in Krakow; email or fax a request to your state of residence, or contact the Embassy Warsaw or Consulate Krakow via e-mail or fax at: firstname.lastname@example.org; fax: +22-504-2122 (Warsaw) or email@example.com; fax: +12-424-5120 (Krakow).
Step Two: Completing the Application. The Federal Post Card Application form comes with its own set of general instructions. A good rule of thumb is to apply at least 45 days before the election to ensure that you get your materials in time to send them back before Election Day. Note also that many states will now send you your blank ballot via e-mail or fax, a service that significantly speeds up the process.
Step Three: Mailing the Application. After you have completed the Federal Post Card Application, address it to the appropriate city or county office found in the instructions.
If you choose to send the card through the Polish postal system, you must affix international postage. If you drop the card off at the Embassy or the Consulate, we can send it through the U.S. postal system at no cost.
If you are running up against a deadline, check the Federal Voting Assistance Program website or the Overseas Vote Foundation website for your state to see if it allows you to fax your request. Keep in mind that you still have to send the Federal Post Card Application by post; the fax enables you to beat a deadline but it cannot substitute for the signed original.
When and how will I get my ballot?
If all goes well, your local state officials will register you and send you a ballot which you will fill out and return according to the instructions you are given. In some cases, local officials may need to contact you in order to confirm your prior residency in the state and your citizenship before they will send you a ballot. It is important to provide accurate contact information on the FPCA and to explain any unusual circumstances in the space provided.
Can I receive my ballot via e-mail or fax?
Yes, many states will now send you your blank ballot via e-mail or fax, a service that significantly speeds up the process.
When does my ballot have to be back in my precinct?
What if my ballot doesn’t come on time?
If you have not received your ballot, and your postcard application was mailed in time to be received by your local election official 30 days prior to the election, you may be eligible to use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote for federal offices. This ballot may be used only for general elections and is an emergency backup for voters who expect to be able to use the regular absentee ballot but who did not receive that ballot in time to vote and return it. The federal write-in ballot must be received by the local election official no later than the deadline for receipt of regular absentee ballots under state law.
Where do I get a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot if I need one?
You may obtain a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot from your Embassy or Consulate, or on-line at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website or the Overseas Vote Foundation website. If you receive your state ballot after you have submitted the federal absentee ballot, you still must submit the state ballot. The state ballot, not the federal absentee ballot, will then be counted.
What’s the difference between a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)?
The Federal Post Card Application is the form you use to register to vote. You send this form to your state, county, or precinct so that officials know you are a voter there.
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot is the emergency backup voting ballot for those individuals who did not receive their regular ballot in time to vote and return it.
How do I contact the Embassy or Consulate if I have other questions?
The Voting Assistance Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland is available to answer questions about absentee voting, to assist in registering to vote and in requesting absentee ballots. To contact the Voting Assistance Officer, call +22-504-2784 or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org (Warsaw) or email@example.com (Krakow)
Where can I find more information?
The official U.S. Government resource for overseas absentee voters is the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website. You can also see the U.S. Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/travel/living/overseas_voting/overseas_voting_4754.html. Another useful resource is the Overseas Vote Foundation.
Americans in Poland may also contact Democrats Abroad at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.democratsabroad.org/vote or Republicans Abroad at: http://www.republicansabroad.org/register.php for voting information, or for assistance in registering to vote or to request absentee ballots.