U.S. citizens have options in voting from overseas

You requested your ballot but didn’t receive it yet? Or maybe you just procrastinated? Fortunately, you still have time to vote in 2010 if you remember one little acronym: FWAB.

What’s an FWAB? It’s the “Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot” and the official alternative ballot to use if your ballot is late or missing somewhere between your election official’s office and your home abroad.

New legislation intended to make it easier to vote from overseas — the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment or MOVE Act — mandates that all states must now accept the FWAB for all federal elections. If you registered/requested a ballot at any point in 2010 and you don’t have your regular ballot already, then it’s time to use the FWAB.

Some states allow you to register/request your ballot up until Election Day; some allow you to register and vote on the same day. Is your state one of them? Look it up in the Overseas Vote Foundation state-specific voter information directory.

Likewise, many states will count your ballot if it arrives after Nov. 2 as long as you have sent it on or before Election Day. What are your state’s deadlines? Check the foundation’s 2010 Election Deadlines charts to find out!

The OVF online tools make using the FWAB easy. Enter your voting address and the FWAB wizard will automatically list the candidates running in your congressional district.  Want to know more about a particular candidate? Look up his or her bio in the foundation’s candidate finder which is powered by Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan resource for information about candidates.

Deciding the candidate you want is the only part you have to think about, the rest is easy. With the FWAB, you simply vote. print, mail.

The MOVE Act requires that states provide you an option to receive your blank ballots electronically — via a Web site, email or fax. Although it is not part of MOVE, many states allow voted ballot return by the same means.

The foundation advises caution: returning a marked ballot online provides no security or privacy guarantees. The very basis of our electoral system is the secret ballot. Your voting decisions are supposed to be private and election officials are required to protect the integrity of the ballot box at all costs. E-mail can be intercepted and online ballots changed on the way to their destination. Voters should keep this in mind and consider returning voted paper ballot as the safest option.

When returning a voted ballot by fax, most states require that the voter sign a waiver giving up the right to the privacy of the faxed ballot. Neither of these seem like good compromises to the foundation. This is why it still strongly recommends that voters return a ballot by mail.

If a voter is in a time crunch in returning a ballot, there is a solution! It’s called, Express Your Vote.

With the support of FedEx Express, the foundation is offering special delivery rates in 94 countries. Voted ballot deserves the best treatment available. A voter can go online to Express Your Vote and create an Air WayBill in a few simple steps. The voter can take it to a FedEx drop-off location or arrange for a pickup.

For a complete suite of voter services as well as news and information about overseas voting, see the Overseas Vote Foundation Web site.

Other resources: Project Vote Smart and Federal Voting Assistance Program.

By Clair Whitmer
of the Overseas Vote Foundation

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