Americans Helping Americans Abroad

How to Vote in the 2020 US Elections from Overseas

The first place Overseas Voters go for information on casting their ballots and making their vote count: The Federal Voting Assistance Program!

A Message from the US Embassy in Paris

This year, the US Elections will take place on Tuesday, November 3rd. In some states, voter registration and ballot request deadlines for the November 2020 are as early as October 5th. Whether you are a first-time voter or have already received ballots and voted absentee in past elections, we recommend that you complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA-pdf) each year to ensure you are able to participate in elections as an overseas absentee voter.

If you have already completed a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) in 2020 and requested electronic delivery of your ballot, you will be receiving your blank ballot or instructions for how to access your ballot soon if you have not already received it. If you are not sure about the status of your absentee ballot request you should contact your local election officials in the United States or check the status of your registration via your state’s voter registration verification website.

You can get voting assistance from the Embassy in Paris or Consulates General in Marseille and Strasbourg. You can also drop off your completed voting forms and ballots, addressed to your local election officials, at those locations.

If you have never voted while overseas before, it’s not too late. The process is easy – just follow these steps:

1. Complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA-pdf)

Whether you are a first-time voter or have voted absentee in past elections, you should complete an FPCA to receive your ballot this fall. It allows you to register to vote and request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (presidential and state primaries, run-off, special, and the November general elections) during the course of the year in which you submit the FPCA. Local election officials in all US states and territories accept the FPCA.

The online voting assistant available at FVAP.gov is an easy way to complete the FPCA. It will ask you questions specific to your state and tell you if electronic ballot delivery is possible. No matter which state you vote in, we encourage you to ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state). Be sure to include your email address to take advantage of electronic delivery. The online voting assistant will generate a printable FPCA, which you can then print and sign.

2. Submit the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)

Some states allow you to return your completed ballot by email or fax. If your state requires you to return paper voting forms or ballots to local election officials:

  • You can use a courier service such as FedEx or DHL.
  • The local Postal Services: You may also use international mail by placing your signed, dated ballot in a properly addressed envelope, bearing sufficient postage, and mail it from any post office. General transit time may vary depending on the country you are mailing from.
  • US Mail via Embassy services: You can download the postage paid envelope (see all materials and forms), address it to your county board of elections and drop it off at your local embassy.

All voting materials MUST be placed in a US postage paid envelope and addressed to the appropriate US election office.

  • If it’s more convenient for you, you can have a friend or family member drop off your FPCA at the Embassy on your behalf.

3. Receive Your Ballot

After submitting your FPCA, most states allow you to confirm online your registration and ballot delivery selection. States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election (this year, by September 19) for federal office (President, US Senate, or US House of Representatives) to any overseas US citizen who has completed an FPCA.

4. Return Your Ballot

We recommend that if you plan to return your paper ballot to your election officials via the US Embassy in Paris, please deliver your ballot to the Embassy by October 2 to account for transit times between overseas posts and local voting districts. You may also return your ballot using the means described in entry 2 above: French Postal Services or private commercial courier service.

If You Don’t Receive Your Official Ballot

If there isn't enough time to receive and send back your ballot before the election, use the online assistant to complete the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), or download and print the FWAB here. It is a backup ballot you can use if you don’t receive your ballot in a timely manner. If your official absentee ballot arrives after sending in the FWAB, also fill it out and send it in. Only one will be counted. After you send in your ballot, you can check if it was received by your election office.

Due to the global pandemic, when you are ready to submit your ballot, it is strongly recommended that you check with your nearest embassy or consulate to verify whether they are still able to collect ballots for return to the US or are recommending use of a private commercial courier service.

Help Spread the Word About Overseas Voting

Please help spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues that now is the time to start thinking about overseas voting. Consider posting to your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other social media account that you are an active voter and will be dropping off or mailing your Federal Post Card Application or completed ballot. Use #ProudOverseasVoter to help get the word out about voting.

Your Vote Counts

Many US elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%. All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline (differs by state). Be an educated voter. Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues. You can also read national and hometown newspapers online and search the Internet to locate articles and information.

To receive information by email about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP's Voting Alerts (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.

Important Note: Embassies and consulates are not polling places. Same-day in-person voting is not available outside the United States.

Please do not send any voting materials to the embassy by mail. They will be opened and returned to you.

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