Voting from abroad
„Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his/her country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.“ (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 21)
Being able to vote and chose your representative is widely recognized as one of the basic human rights, but it is not only a priveledge, but the duty of a citizen to participate in elections, even if the person does not even live in his country of origin. To vote from abroad citizens use the postal election process, which is per se not very complicated, but requires some preparation. Depending on the country of residence and the state of origin you can receive your ballot either electronically, via download, via fax, via mail or even via a proxy (U.K.).
As an U.S. Citizen you are recommended to apply your ballot via the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) annually in January to make sure, your ballot arrives in time. The FPCA acts as both a registration and absentee ballot request form. The application process may vary from state to state, but it is easy to follow your state’s instructions via the online application tool provided by the government. The FPCA serves to confirm your eligibility to vote and must be applied annually for a full election cycle.
Depending on your state of origin, your voting ballot will be sent out 45 days before general and mid-term elections and generally 30 days before special, primary, and run-off elections for federal offices. Also depending on your state ballots, are only delivered electronically by fax or mail. In order to conclude the voting process citizens have to fill out their ballots, seal them and mail them back. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP web site. There is also the possibility to drop off your ballot at the local election officials at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Some states have recently introduced an electronic transmission options (Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Voting Assistance Guide). In order to send in your ballot within the voting deadline, it is recommended the process as soon as possible.
As a citizen of the United Kingdoms you are generally obliged to register to vote. It is possible to register to vote in the U.K. up to 15 years after you left the country. The British election process for abroad is rather simple compared to the American, after you filled out the registration you can arrange to vote by post or by proxy. If the election is less than two weeks away voting by proxy is the recommended choice to make sure your vote arrives in time, because your ballot is supposed to arrive at your local officials within 11 days from the election day. Anyone who is registered to vote is applicable to be your proxy, but in order to chose one you have to fill in a proxy application.
For most countries the election process works in a similar way as described above. No matter from where you are, it is important to start the registration early to ensure enough time for the registration process. Being abroad is hardly an excuse for not exercising your right as a citizen, and wherever there’s a post office, there is also a possibility to vote. Seize it!
Image:CC BY-SA 2.0 FR, Rama