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The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) works to ensure service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so, from anywhere in the world. Voting is a citizen’s most fundamental right. FVAP helps Service members, their families and overseas citizens vote by providing tools and resources to receive, cast and return an absentee ballot during all federal elections. Additionally, FVAP works with overseas citizen organizations to provide information for absentee voting. By forging relationships and using their networks, FVAP is able to reach more U.S. citizens than by traditional methods to ensure they have the tools and resources they need.
How do I vote by absentee ballot?
Elections are managed individually by state governments, which means there are 55 different sets of rules for absentee voting by service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens. The basic steps are:
1. Register to vote and request an absentee ballot by filling out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and sending it to your election office in your state of legal residence.
2. Once the FPCA is approved, the election office sends an absentee ballot to you.
3. You then complete and return your voted absentee ballot to your election office by your state's deadline.
State rules, required forms and phone numbers for local election or voting offices can be found in the Voting Assistance Guide at https://www.fvap.gov/guide.
Where do I get the form?
The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), or SF-76, can be obtained from the Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office. It is also available online at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
How do I complete and send the form?
Many states have specific rules. Depending on the rules of the state, voters can mail or register and request ballots electronically (email or fax, etc.). Although there is a deadline, some states allow late registration. Please use the "FPCA Wizard" which guides you according to the requirements of your state.
Since my family members are not in the military, can they vote absentee?
The law entitles eligible family members of military personnel to vote absentee. Family members are considered to be in the same absentee voter category as military members and generally should follow the same procedures. Family members of military personnel residing overseas, who are U.S. citizens and who have never resided in the U.S., usually claim a parent's legal status as their own if that parent is a U.S. citizen.
Why is voting different for military members and their families?
Voting in the U.S. is controlled and conducted by state governments who have various rules if a local voter is temporarily gone on Election Day, whether it's voting early, by absentee or at local polls. Military voting is different because extended or overseas absences can prevent service members from using normal state voting rules. A special law, called the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, or UOCAVA, requires that the states and territories allow certain groups to register and vote absentee in federal elections.
What if I am deployed?
While a few deploying or deployed members may be able to vote at their local polls prior to departure or will return in time to vote at their local polls, most deployed members must use the absentee voting process if they want to vote. Local briefings during deployment processing should encourage deploying members to take a copy of two voting forms with them: the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), or SF-76, and Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), or SF-186. The Voting Assistance Officers (VAO) at the Installation Voter Assistance (IVA) Office can help. The SF-76 is also available at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
Who is eligible to vote under the UOCAVA law?
All members of the U.S. uniformed services (on active duty), including Merchant Marines, their family members and U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S.
Do all military members vote under the UOCAVA law or can I vote locally?
Military and family members stationed/working in their voting residence city and state may vote locally at the polls or use their state's absentee process. Each state has specific residency and voter registration requirements. State rules, required forms and phone numbers for local election or voting offices can be found in the Voting Assistance Guide on the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
Where is my "legal voting residence?"
Proper legal voting residence is critical to ensure a state’s timely approval of the registration, absentee ballot request and transmittal of the ballot to the voter. Your voting residence is within your state of legal residence or domicile. It is the true, fixed address that you consider your permanent home and where you have/had a physical presence.
State of legal residence and voting residence is sometimes mistaken for home of record. Your voting residence may be the same as your home of record but needs to be updated if and when you decide to establish a new state of legal residence. Military spouses and eligible family members may retain the sponsor’s or service member’s residency, keep the current established residency or take the appropriate steps to establish a new residency.
Consult the base legal office when claiming a new residence or domicile since there may be tax implications, in-state tuition rate issues and other factors to consider.
Regardless of your legal voting residency, the election office needs your current contact information. The most efficient way to maintain your current contact information is to complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) annually, with every change of address and at least 90 before the election.
Malmstrom Voting Assistance Office
Airman and Family Readiness Center
Comm: (406) 731-2786
Closed on weekends, holidays
0730-1600 - Monday thru Friday