(This information is copied from our August 12 Newsletter. It is correct, to the best of our knowledge, as of August 17 2020.)
All US citizens living overseas have the right to vote, yet historically only 1 in 10 citizens take advantage of this opportunity. More and more states are using electronic means to make registering and voting by absentee ballot easier than ever. Over the next few weeks, Beach Area News will provide updated information as we receive it to make sure that all US citizens living in our community who wish to are able to vote in the November 2020 election. This is the general election for President and Congressional seats and may also include State-based candidates and initiatives. After reading this Email, if you still have questions, the US Consulate in Merida has a special address for voting inquiries: VoteMerida@state.gov
There are three basic steps to voting when you are overseas and the procedure and timeline vary by state. First, you must be registered to vote in the state in which you are voting. Second, you must request and receive your absentee ballot. Third, you must return your absentee ballot in time for it to be counted by your state’s election officials.
Step 1: Register to Vote
The first step in getting to vote overseas is to visit the Federal Voter Assistance Program www.fvap.gov and select the state in which you will be voting. All of the information that you need to register to vote is provided in detail for each state. Some states allow you to register on-line using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which enables you to register and request your absentee ballot at the same time. All states allow for an absentee ballot to be sent to you by email and you are strongly encouraged to select this option when you register through the FPCA. If your state requires you to register by mail, Elizabeth Saviano in Chuburna has official paper registration forms for mailing, US postage pre-paid. Please contact her at email@example.com If you have not yet registered; do this as soon as possible.
Step 2: Receive your absentee ballot
States are required to send out absentee ballots to registered voters by September 19. Some states will send absentee ballots to all voters, while others require voters to specifically request an absentee ballot before it will be sent to them. If you registered on-line using the Federal Post Card Application, your request to receive an absentee ballot has already been submitted. If you are unsure whether or not your state will automatically send you an absentee ballot, either by email or regular mail, visit the fvap.gov website and select your state to find out its rules. We encourage you to confirm your state’s rules for receiving an absentee ballot as soon as possible and confirm that you have requested that your ballot be emailed to you, rather than sent by the Postal Service.
If you do not receive your ballot by September 19, here is what you can do:
- First, check your Spam folder; make sure the email with your ballot is not in there!
- Contact your state election office, found on the FVAP website, to determine if the ballot was sent and what steps to take next. Perhaps the election office can arrange to email you a ballot. OR:
- Download the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) online starting at this page at FVAP.gov. Depending on your state’s requirements, you can return the FWAB by email, fax, commercial carrier or mail. OR:
- Contact a volunteer Voter Assistance Official (see below) to receive help getting your absentee ballot or receiving an official Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) in paper form. If needed, the FWAB can be delivered to your door or can be picked up at various locations in Mérida and beach areas starting in September.
Step 3: Return your ballot ON TIME!
If your state allows you send your ballot via email or FAX to your election office, make sure you do that no later than their deadline time on November 3!
If you must send your paper ballot to your election office in the US, there are several resources available here in Yucatan to ensure that your ballot is returned to your state in time to be counted.
Option 1) Drop off your absentee ballot to the US Consulate in Mérida by October 2. The US Consulate in Merida at Calle 60 #338K has a drop-box for election materials to be sent by mail. Registrations and ballots can be dropped off to the Consulate during normal business hours. They will be mailed in the diplomatic pouch once a week. Voters must prepare the ballots envelope with either the postage pre-paid template or two first class US postage stamps (see more about postage below). DON’T FORGET TO SIGN THE BALLOT ENVELOPE IF REQUIRED –SOMETIMES THIS IS ON THE BACK OF THE ENVELOPE. Make sure the Return Address is your Mexico one, not any US one that you use. The envelope must be properly addressed to the Local Election Official, which can be found on the FVAP.gov website.
Option 2) Work with local volunteer Voter Assistance Officials. Several individuals affiliated with Democrats Abroad Mexico Yucatan have been certified as Voter Assistance Officials (VAOs) by the Federal Voting Assistance Program to officially help all voters regardless of party affiliation return their ballots on-time to the US. VAOs, even those affiliated with a political party, are required by law to perform their activities without regard to political party, and are also required by law to disclose that they are affiliated with a political party. These regulations are detailed here: https://www.fvap.gov/vao/directives/organizations
VAOs in the Yucatan will help get ballots back to the US in time to be counted in the following ways:
- Some VAOs will be traveling back to the United States before November 3 and will courier absentee ballots. There is a drop box in place at the Merida English Library and at the beach in a location to be determined. Again, ballot envelopes must be prepared with either the postage-prepaid template available with the ballot or the proper amount of US postage (2 first-class stamps) and properly addressed to the Local Election Official, and signed if required.
- For people who cannot personally drop off their ballots at the Consulate in Merida, VAOs will collect ballots and bulk mail them by commercial carrier to the Embassy in Mexico City for inclusion in the diplomatic pouch. This will happen at least once a week. Voters can either drop off ballots at specified locations or request pick-up through the contact listed below. (There will be more VOA’s available for ballot pickup in September.)
- Before October 2, VAOs will bulk mail absentee ballots by commercial carrier to a trusted VAO in the US for mailing through the US Postal Service.
Option 3) Send your ballot yourself. If you wish to send your own ballot back to your election office in the US, use a commercial carrier such as Federal Express, UPS or DHL.** Make sure you return your ballot in plenty of time to be received by the election office in your state. Voters are discouraged from using the Mexican postal service to mail back ballots. **Added August 17: check with your state or local elections office to make sure they will accept a ballot delivered by a courier service. There have been a few reports of offices refusing to do this.
About Postage-paid Election Mail and US Postage
Unless you are mailing your ballot directly to the election office using a commercial carrier, once your paper ballot reaches the United States, it must have sufficient postage affixed to it so it can be mailed to your state’s election office. This requires either two first-class US postage stamps or the printing of a free, postage paid envelope available from FVAP. US citizens living abroad are authorized to use the free, postage-paid envelope that will ensure your ballot is mailed to the state election office once the ballot arrives in the US. Information on how to prepare and print this postage-paid envelope can be found here:
If needed, US postage stamps are available through VAOs at cost. Supplies are limited.
Contacting volunteer Voter Assistance Officers
Democrats Abroad is helping all voters, regardless of political party affiliation with voter registration and absentee ballot requests. Every Sunday they will hold a virtual voter assistance event – visit their website for more information: www.democratsabroad.com
Individual assistance can also be requested by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, individuals in Yucatan can contact Elizabeth Saviano directly at email@example.com
Please note that the Republicans Overseas organization is not providing any localized assistance in Yucatan.