Your VAG Abroad: How to Vote if You Don’t Reside in the U.S.

VAG: Make your Queer Voice Heard Around the Globe!

Hey, you! Are you an American exchange student living the dream in Europe? Are you serving our country overseas? Are you teaching English in Korea? Are you an American expat living in South Africa or Canada or Australia? (If that last one – call me, we should hang out.)

Did you know that you can vote in US elections from abroad?

Our constitutional rights to vote don’t go away when we wave goodbye to the US border for an extended period of time. That means that you can cast your vote for someone who respects queer folk! Say, our current incumbent president? Or maybe you could help vote out a homophobic Congressperson who is embarrassing your home state?

If you want to do this, you’d better move quickly. The deadline for requesting a ballot in North Dakota has already passed (see more below about what to do if you’re from North Dakota) and Nevada and South Carolina must be registered by October 6. (To determine your voting state and district, use your last address in the US or, if you’re already registered to vote, the last address you were registered to vote from.) Other state deadlines are looming, so check check for your state’s deadline ASAP!

State laws vary widely in how to register and request your ballot from outside the country. Luckily for us, though, there are a lot of people who want to make it easy for you to vote from overseas. The US government’s Federal Voting Assistance Program is dedicated to helping US citizens who live in other countries exercise their voting rights. Democrats Abroad also runs a website that helps you get registration and a ballot. Both sites have wizards that walk you through the process. Super easy!

Depending on where you used to live, your ballot may be delivered by postal mail or by email. In Whatcom County, Washington State, which is where the wife and I are registered, you can choose one or the other. I receive my ballot by post and she gets hers by email. She’s already received her ballot, while I’m still waiting for mine. If you get your ballot through the mail, you’ll need to put an international stamp on it, drop it off at a consulate/embassy or put it through Armed Services mail. Your auditor’s office will send you specific instructions.

Some states will send you a shortened ballot that only includes federal offices, while others (including Washington) will just send you the full ballot. (Which means I can vote yes on R-74 like all you queer Washingtonians should be doing! Hooray!)

But wait, you say! My last voting address was in North Dakota, or I’m reading this late and my state’s deadline has already passed! Never fear, you still have options so long as you’re already registered to vote. Go download a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. Print it, write in your preferred candidates, then slap a postcard stamp on it and put it in the mail to the auditor’s office where you were last registered to vote. Too easy! This ballot will only let you vote for President and Senator, but that’s better than nothing.

So even if you live in Reykjavik or Warsaw or Tokyo or Sydney, you can still make your voice heard in the United States. Isn’t that great?

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I am an American expat living in Sydney, Australia. I like science fiction and video games more than is probably healthy. I have a beautiful girlfriend and two little grey cats.

Dina has written 5 articles for us.

18 Comments

    • Another Autostraddle-reading English teacher in France Hannah? Seriously? I’ve been here for several years, never received my ballot in 2008, and had all but given up hope for this year… Are absentee ballots counted in every state? I always thought they were only counted if the election was close, and since I have have had the good fortune of being registered in a swing state, I thought there would be no point if my ballot would never be opened and counted by state officials. Please correct me if I’m wrong though!

      • Technically I’m just an assistant, but that’s awesome that you’re here too! Yeah, New York isn’t exactly a battleground or anything and you’re right that they only count them if it’s close, but I’d still feel strange not voting. I was registered in Minnesota during college, so I might try to get a MN ballot instead.

      • I’m actually not sure about which ballots they count, but I’m sure it depends on the state. In Washington, they count all the ballots they get by mail… but that’s because all of our voting is by mail. :)

        And sometimes it really does get that close! I remember the 2004 election when our gubernatorial race came to within a couple of hundred votes. I think that happened with a Senate race in 2008 too? In Minnesota or something like that? Anyway, you can’t always predict when that’s going to happen, so I still think it’s worth doing. :)

        • Yeah, I’m definitely going to try to vote in Minnesota. I know that in 2008 when Franken ran for senate, that race was super close, so my absentee ballot this time might actually help if the situation is similar.

  1. Thank you! I am an expat living in the Northern Scottish Isles and have always meant to register abroad but found the process too Byzantine. I am eager to do my part to hopefully make US politics less embarrassing to have to explain to family and friends here.

  2. ALSO ALSO ALSO!! If you are voting by absentee using a preexisting registration, make sure your signature matches your original registration signature (or request to update your signature). They match your signature on your absentee ballot with your signature on your original registration, and if they don’t feel like the signatures are the same, THEY THROW YOUR BALLOT OUT! This is very important to keep in mind if you’re voting absentee, fyi. VOTE VOTE VOTE!

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