Absentee voting allows you to vote by mail. Though every state has absentee voting, rules on who can participate vary.
Military and Overseas Voters
- Military members, their spouses, and other eligible family members stationed outside their legal voting residence can vote absentee.
- Overseas U.S. citizens who previously resided in the U.S. can vote absentee.
- U.S. citizens born abroad who have never resided in the U.S. may not be able to vote absentee. It depends on the rules of the state where the person’s parent or legal guardian last resided.
Register and Request an Absentee Ballot in One Step
Military and overseas U.S. citizens should use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot. The FCPA lets you start both processes with the single form.
Knowing your voting residence is important to this process.
- For citizens living outside the U.S., your voting residence is the address in the state where you last resided before leaving the U.S. You can use this address even if:
- You no longer own property in that state.
- You’re not sure whether you’re going to return to that state.
- Your previous address is no longer a recognized residential address.
For military members, your voting residence should be within the state listed on your Leave and Earnings Statement. It is not necessarily your home of record.
Submit Your Application As Soon As Possible
Whether you’re in the military or are an overseas U.S. citizen, you should submit your FCPA as soon as possible. If you don’t receive your absentee ballot in time to meet your state’s deadline for returning it, you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB).
Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program to learn more.
Other Citizens: Check With Your State to Vote By Mail or Absentee Ballot
Unless you’re a military or overseas voter, you must start your request for an absentee or vote-by-mail ballot with your state or territorial election office. Every state’s voting rules are different, including the rules for who can vote by mail and how to obtain an absentee or mail-in ballot.
To begin, visit your state or territorial election office website and look for “Absentee Voting” or “Voting By Mail.” If you don’t see either term quickly, try using the site’s search tool.
- Your state may require you to have a valid excuse to vote absentee. Acceptable excuses vary by state. However, most include:
- Having an illness, injury, or disability that prevents you from getting to your designated polling place
- Being on business travel or vacation outside of your county or city of residence on Election Day
- Being a student at an out-of-state college or university
This National Conference of State Legislatures table shows which states require an excuse.
Follow your state’s instructions for requesting an absentee or vote-by-mail ballot online or by mail.