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Make Your Vote Count: A Voting Guide for Expat Americans

ExpertsPost Category - ExpertsExpertsFamily LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

If you’re an expat looking to vote in the upcoming U.S. election, we walk you through the steps on how to register (guidelines vary by state!)

The world is watching as the most bizarre American presidential election in recent memory unfolds. If you are an American residing outside of the United States, you retain your right to vote (in most instances, anyway). This article will walk you through the process.


Regardless of your political affiliation, we can all agree that everything we thought we knew about elections has gone out the window. States that have never voted for one party may suddenly flip. The House and Senate may also change hands, depending on your vote. Nothing is certain, and every vote will count.

If you have voted absentee before…

Remember that you must submit a Federal Post Card Application annually. You can get the form at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website. Confirm that you have done so for 2016, but if you successfully voted in the primary, you are good to go for the general.

If you have never voted absentee before but you voted at your last address in the U.S., OR have never voted but resided in the U.S. prior to living abroad OR you are a student studying abroad…

You should take a look at this map. Click on the last state in which you lived, and read the guidelines unique to your state. Unfortunately the rules vary state by state, so we can’t provide more specific information without making this article way too long.

US Presidential Election 2012 - voting

If you are currently serving in the US Military or are a Military Spouse…

Please go to this page. From there you may follow the guidelines depending on the branch of the military in which you serve or if you are a military spouse.

If you are a U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. …

You should know that about half of the states, and Washington D.C., will allow you to register at your parents’ last address, if they are active voters, so that you may vote absentee. “If neither of your parents is from one of these states, it is possible that you do not currently have voting rights. However, additional states are working to pass legislation to allow citizens born overseas who have never established residency in the U.S. to vote in the State in which their parents are eligible.” (source—Federal Voting Assistance Program).

The states where the child of expats who has never resided in the U.S. may NOT vote are:

New Jersey
North Carolina

If your state is on this list, and you are a registered voter, I’d encourage you to contact your representatives at the state level to urge them to introduce legislation to allow these children to vote. Even if you aren’t a parent, your state is disenfranchising voters, and it shouldn’t be legal.

voting for us

However, if your child is now residing in the U.S. to attend college, they may register to vote using their address at college. Urge them to do so.

One final note, important, note if you haven’t yet received your absentee ballot…

According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program:

“If you requested your absentee ballot and haven’t received it from your state at least 30 days before the election, you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The FWAB is an emergency backup ballot. This backup ballot can be completed using the FWAB online assistant, by filling out the PDF, or picking up a hard copy version from your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The online assistant will guide you through the process of completing the form. Once you complete the form, you will be able to download and print the PDF package to sign and send to your election office. This PDF package even includes a pre-addressed and postage paid label so you don’t have to worry about finding stamps! Don’t forget a security envelope. (Use a separate blank envelope and write “Security Envelope” on it and place your voted ballot in it. This keeps your vote private.)”

vote sticker

So many countries around the world do not allow their citizens to vote. In the U.S., women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years (the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920). Some countries do not allow citizens living abroad to vote.

If you are American, and of voting age, please exercise your right to vote in this election. Regardless of your party, the future of the country is at stake.

**Disclaimer: While all information comes from non-partisan sources, I am affiliated with Democrats Abroad. Regardless of your party affiliation, though, I encourage you to make your vote heard.**

Lead image sourced via Jackson County Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton image sourced via Politico, Donald Trump image and image #3 sourced via Los Angeles Times, image #2 sourced via Vos Iz Neias and image #4 sourced via NPR.

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