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American JETs Guide to Voting Abroad (Primary Election)

Apply for an Absentee Ballot here!
Scroll down to apply directly with your state.

We are currently in the thick of the 2016 Primary Election. Here is a quick how-to guide for voting with an absentee ballot.

As it stands, most American JETs are still legal residents of our home states, thus we are eligible to vote in our state primaries. There are plenty that have primary elections coming up – unfortunately I have posted this too late for some states (sorry!) but you could still use this guide to apply for a ballot for the general election. (It is not too early to apply for an absentee ballot for the general election!)

How does an Absentee Ballot work?

There are many ways to apply for an absentee ballot, but I recommend applying directly with your state board of elections (see #2 below). Today you can still absentee vote via mail – but this is the 21st century, and absentee voting is moving online. In most states you apply for an absentee ballot online and receive your ballot via email before the election. After receiving and filling out your ballot, you can mail it in or, if you are lucky, some states let you vote through an online portal, no mail required! Even if you send it late, most states will count your vote up to 10 days after election day, as long as your ballot is postmarked by election day. Of course, the downside of sending it late is that the winner will probably be announced before your vote is counted. So make sure, if you are sending your ballot by mail, that you send it in plenty of time.


#1: For the primary, make sure you are registered with a party.

You don’t need to register with a party for the general election, however it is important for the primary elections. If you are a Democrat you vote for a Democrat candidate, Republican for a Republican candidate, and so on for other parties… If you are not affiliated with a party or wish to change affiliation, for most states you can register for a party when you apply for your absentee ballot but BE CAREFUL! The deadline for party registration is often before the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline tends to be a few weeks before the primary election (this is supposed to help ensure people are committed to their party identification).

#2: Apply for the Absentee Ballot

LongDistanceVoter.Org is an easy way to fill out a general absentee ballot application form to mail to your state board of elections. However, I recommend applying directly with your State Board of Elections. Why? Because, as I said before, applying directly with your state avoids a lot of snail mail. Also, it limits the possibility of application issues arising as every state has different requirements.

If you scroll down on their homepage, LongDistanceVoter.org provides absentee ballot information for every state! Click on your state to see when your deadlines are and how to apply for an absentee ballot.

#3: Absentee Ballot Troubleshooting!

Let’s say you apply for your absentee ballot, but something goes wrong and you do not receive your ballot in time. There is still a chance to vote! You can fill out this Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) form and send it to your State Board of Elections in lieu of an absentee ballot. Note: This is not exactly an alternative to the absentee ballot. In most states, you must have applied to receive an absentee ballot in order for the FWAB to count as an alternative ballot.

#4: Don’t forget the other primaries!

The federal primary election isn’t the only primary election happening this year. Other state and local offices have primary elections as well (sometimes on a different date than the federal primary). Try to educate yourself on all candidates up for election – not just the presidential nominations!

Good luck, fellow Americans!



Author Bio
Danie Manos

Danie Manos

Danie is an American ALT in Yuzawa-shi, Akita-ken. She is a self-proclaimed geek and avid traveler with a creative tilt. If not board gaming with friends you may find her painting or writing in her off-time.


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