Message for U.S. Citizens: Voting from Abroad (August 26, 2020)

United States Embassy Helsinki, Finland
Message for U.S. Citizens:  VOTING FROM ABROAD
August 26, 2020

American citizens can vote from wherever they are—including Finland!  With November 2020 elections around the corner, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about voting from abroad.

Q:  Should I show up at the embassy on November 3 to cast my ballot?
A:  Please don’t!  Embassies aren’t polling places.  Elections are run at the state level, so you must communicate directly with your state to register, request a ballot, and vote.

Q:  Where should I start?
A:  Register and request a ballot from your home state.  Turn in your ballot per your state’s instructions.  The Federal Voting Assistance Program can walk you through the steps.

Q:  Which state should I register with?
A:  Your voting residence is usually your last address in the United States before moving abroad.  See more here.

Q:  Can I vote if I have never lived in the United States?
A:  Possibly.  You can research your specific situation here.

Q:  When will I receive my ballot?
A:  Election offices are required to send absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election.  If you requested your ballot by email, then the ballot should arrive right away.  Mailed ballots will take longer.

Q:  If my ballot doesn’t arrive in time, am I out of luck?
A:  You can still vote!  If you do not receive an absentee ballot in time to return it to your state, you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot as a backup to vote for federal offices.  (If your official absentee ballot arrives after you send in the FWAB, then you can fill out and send in the official ballot as well.  Your state will count only one.)

Q:  How should I return my ballot?
A:  Follow your state’s instructions.  If you must return your ballot by mail, the U.S. Embassy can help.  Bring your U.S. postage-paid envelope to us, and we will get it to a U.S. post office.  Email us to schedule a drop-off time.

Q:  When should I return my ballot?
A:  The recommended vote-by day for Americans living overseas is October 13, 2020, but the sooner, the better.

For any remaining questions or concerns, please visit the Federal Voting Assistance program website or email VoteHelsinki@state.gov.