Sarasota County, FL - Board of Elections

Overseas Citizens FAQ - Federal Voting Assistance Program

Overseas Citizens | Military |

If I do not maintain a legal residence in the U.S., what is my "legal state of residence?" Your "legal state of residence" for voting purposes is the state or territory where you last resided immediately prior to your departure from the United States. This applies to overseas citizens even though you may not have property or other ties in your last state or territory of residence and your intent to return to that state or territory may be undertain. When completing the FPCA's (Federal Post Card Application) Voting Residence section, be sure to enter the entire mailing address of your last residence, including street or rural route and number. The address determines your proper district, ward, precinct or parish for voting purposes. Some states allow children of U.S. citizens overseas who are U.S. citizens but who have never resided in the United States, to claim one of their parent's legal state or territory of residence as their own.

How do I apply for an absentee ballot? As a UOCAVA citizen, you may register and request an absentee ballot with a single form: The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The FCPA is accepted by all states and territories.It is postage free when placed in the U.S. mail. You may also send a written request for a ballot to your county, city, town, or parish clerk. Hard copies of the FPCA can be obtained from a U.S. embassy or consulate, or requested directly from FVAP. The on-line version of the FPCA (OFPCA) is available at the FVAP Web site, It must be completed, printed out, signed, dated, and placed in an envelope affixed with proper postage, and mailed to your local election official. All states and territories, with the exception of American Samoa and Guam, accept the OFPCA.

Do I have to be registered to vote absentee? Registration requirements vary from state to state. States and territories allow the citizen to register and request an absentee ballot by submitting a single FPCA during the election year.

Where do I send my FPCA? Your completed FPCA should be sent directly to your local election official. Chapter 3 of the Guide outlines absentee voting procedures for each state and territory. In your state or territory of legal voting residence under the heading of “Where to Send it” you will find a list of addresses for county and local election officials. These officials may need to contact you for further information. Please provide an email address or fax number on the FPCA.

Must I submit a separate application for each election? Under the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of November 2009, the FPCA ballot request is good for all elections through the next regularly scheduled general election for federal office. Due to the transient nature of many UOCAVA citizens, FVAP continues to recommend that each citizen submit an FPCA to their state of legal residence in January of each year and again each time there is a change in the voter’s mailing address.

When is the best time to apply for an absentee ballot? At least 45 days before election day to allow ample time to process the request and mail the ballot. If applying for both registration and an absentee ballot, the FPCA may have to be mailed earlier. FVAP recommends submitting the FPCA in January of each year. Consult Chapter 3 of the Guide for further information on state or territorial registration deadlines. Be sure to notify your election official of any change of address.

When should I receive my ballot? Under normal circumstances, Florida begins mailing ballots to citizens 45 days before an election. If you have not received your ballot two weeks before the election, contact your local election official. Contact information is available on most state election Web sites. Always complete and return your absentee ballot regardless of when you receive it.

What is an election for federal office? An election for federal office is any general, special, runoff, or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting, nominating, or electing any candidate for the office of president, vice president, presidential elector, member of the U.S. Senate, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, delegates from the District of Columbia, Guam, Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, and Resident Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.