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Don’t Miss Out: Request Your Absentee Ballot

If you’re already registered to vote, you’re probably prepping for the next part of the election cycle: requesting absentee ballots.

Since we’re huge proponents of empowerment here at Army Wife Network, we want to empower you in casting your ballots for the 2020 election.

Active-duty service members and their voting age family members can request absentee ballots rather than physically voting in their home state or forgoing elections. There is still time to request absentee ballots for the 2020 General Election!

What are absentee ballots?

Absentee ballots are exactly what they sound like—a ballot for voters who will be “absent” on the designated voting day for primaries or general election races. Whether you’re living in the hills of Bavaria or the flatlands of Kansas, you can receive an absentee ballot and participate in every election. 

There are two types of absentee ballots:

Primary ballots: These are the ballots that help choose the party nominee that will then run in the general election. Presidential primaries are held on different days in each state. Some, like Super Tuesday’s 12, all happen on the same day. The primary ballot lists every person in the race on the same ballot that you would use in your home state. Voters mark their selections and submit them to the home state in advance of the election. The deadline for primaries has already passed. 

General election ballots: These ballots work the same way as primary ballots, but also include local races, state races, and House and Senate races. In general elections, all United States voters vote on the same day. 

The kicker, is you have to request an absentee ballot—they aren’t automatically mailed to you.

What do I do first?

If you know you’re already registered and regularly vote in elections, then you’re probably safe to request your absentee ballot now. If, for some reason, you haven’t voted in a while or aren’t sure where you’re registered to vote, you can answer a handful of questions in less than 30 seconds over at vote.org.

Not sure where you’re registered to vote? Start by checking the state from where you obtained your driver’s license, pay your state taxes, own property, and/or register your vehicle(s). States have varying requirements.

What if I’m not registered?

That’s okay—no better time than now! If you aren’t yet registered, the deadline may have passed or is quickly approaching, so you’ll have to check with your particular home state. Even if you’ve missed the deadline for participation in the 2020 election, please register to vote now anyway and get registered with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (more on that later)!

How do I get a ballot?

There are two ways to request an absentee ballot.

1. Directly from your state’s voting office: Voters fill out a ballot request form from their local voting office, submit it, and receive an absentee ballot in the mail.

2. Using FVAP: In the digital age, there is another option—The Federal Voting Assistance Program. All uniformed duty service members and their families can use FVAP for all their voting needs.

How do I use FVAP?

Did you know that every installation has an FVAP office that is entirely responsible for helping you access a ballot so you have a say in every election? They do! If you have questions along the way, please reach out to your local office for guidance. I recommend calling in advance, particularly due to potential COVID-19 restrictions.

Here’s how to request an absentee ballot for the general election using FVAP:

1. Visit www.fvap.gov and click the red button that says “Request Your Ballot Now.” Accept the following terms, then click on the state in which you’re registered to vote or choose from the dropdown menu. 

2. Depending on your voting location, you may have to select a voting jurisdiction. If asked, fill in that location. Other states only have one person responsible, so you skip straight to the ballot classification step. For that step, in most cases, you will select that you’re either a spouse or a uniformed service member.  

3. Fill out all of the starred boxes. Note that you can include either your last four digits of your social security number or your driver’s license number. Follow all steps and have your driver’s license handy—many states require you to list your driver’s license number. 

4. Share the address for where you’re registered to vote. For me, it’s my home of record. It could also be the address on your driver’s license.

5. Add your mailing address, i.e. wherever you are receiving your mail. If you choose to receive a traditional ballot (we cover that in the next step), this is the location where you will vote. It could mean you’re voting in the hills of Bavaria or the flatlands of Kansas, but either way, the address is where you’ll want to receive your ballot so you can fill it out.

6. Decide whether you want to receive your blank ballot via email or snail mail. Head to the next section of this post for some things to consider when choosing how to receive your ballot. Also, include how you can be contacted, as it’s strongly encouraged by FVAP.

7. The next section is all about maintaining contact with FVAP so you automatically receive a ballot for every election (because remember, they happen more than once every four years!).

8. Review all  your information. FVAP puts it in an easy-to-read order for you to confirm. If it’s all correct, move forward. You’re almost there!

9. FVAP will compile all of your information and any extra forms that you need, then you simply print, sign, print the template onto an envelope, and send!

Should I choose digital voting or a traditional paper ballot?

This is entirely up to you, but there are a few things you should consider before choosing:

1. Paper ballots have a lot of rules. Read them carefully and follow them specifically. If you’re unsure, contact your local FVAP office. Please remember to use your secrecy envelope, which is an envelope separate from the mailing envelope. Some states will not count naked ballots, so be sure your ballot wears its fancy outfit (AKA the secrecy envelope), and get that ballot counted!

2. Snail mail takes time. Again, you will need to read the directions that accompany your ballot very closely. Some states need to receive the ballot by Election Day, others need to be postmarked before or on Election Day.

3. Ensure you have access to a solid internet connection. If submitting via email, ensure you have a solid connection and the proper programs to download and fill out your ballot. Again, be sure you closely follow any directions that accompany your ballot.

4. Emailed ballots often arrive right away. You can vote instantly or save for a time when you can concentrate, knowing you can also submit immediately once you’re finished.

How can I check the status of my ballot?

Contact your local voting office directly, even if using FVAP. If you request an absentee ballot directly from your voting office, they will often give you a link to track your ballot to you and back! 

 

What are you waiting for?! Head over to FVAP or your local voting office to request your absentee ballot today!

 

Author

  • Sarah Peachey

    Sarah Peachey is a journalist from southern Pennsylvania currently living in the Southeast. Previous adventures sent her to Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Meade, Maryland; Hohenfels, Germany; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Fort Stewart, Georgia. She lives with her husband of more than 10 years, three children, one very spoiled Dachshund, and a cat who leaves a dusting of white fur on just about everything. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an Army installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work. Her work has appeared on MilSpouseFest, The Homefront United Network, Military.com, SpouseBUZZ, and Army News Service. She consulted for MilitaryOneClick (now known as MilSpouseFest), and helped launch the site #MilitaryVotesMatter, providing up-to-date information important to service members, veterans, and their families in the 2016 election. When not writing for military spouse support sites, she is currently working on her first novel while also volunteering as AWN's Blog Editor. When she can carve the time into her schedule, she writes about parenting, travel, books, and politics on her website, Keep It Peachey. You can find her on Instagram @keepitpeachey. She has a passion for reading, writing, politics, and political discussions. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast, and crossword addict.

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One thing that has been most important to me, as a military spouse, is figuring out how to best do this life while supporting our children with the changes and difficulties. When my children were very small, there were many times that my husband was away, and I had to parent my children alone.

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