In 2020, around three quarters of 1.4 million active duty Service members were eligible to vote in elections via absentee ballots, but less than half voted in the 2020 election, compared to 75% of their civilian counterparts. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) provides all the resources you need to easily vote via absentee ballot, whether you’re stateside or overseas. Here is everything you need to know about what to do once your absentee ballot arrives in the mail to make sure your vote arrives in time to be counted in the next election.

When your ballot arrives. Once your ballot, arrives you should fill it out, sign it, and mail it back to your local election office as soon as possible, regardless of where you are stationed. You can easily find your local election office address or contact information using FVAP’s election office search tool.

The Voter Assistance Guide will help you determine election deadlines for your home state. If you’re serving overseas, FVAP has a handy recommended mailing date chart based on your duty station. These no-later-than mailing dates range from October 1 to October 31, depending on where you are serving. Service members at sea can expect to send their ballots out significantly earlier than military members stationed abroad and stateside, for example. 

Absentee Ballot Boot Camp
Absentee Ballot Boot Camp
Absentee Ballot Boot Camp

If you want to check the status of your ballot to make sure your home election office received it, you can search by your state here.

If you’re short on time. If you’re crunched for time and don’t think you’ll receive your blank ballot in time to vote, you can use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) as a backup ballot. Filling out the FWAB is fairly simple. You’ll complete the form online, print it, sign it and then send it to your local election office.

Many states allow Service members to submit their ballots via mail, fax and even by email. In fact, more than half of U.S. states have either a fax or email option, and sometimes both. This graphic shows which states offer voting options in addition to postal mail.

Other helpful tools. Not finding what you’re looking for or need more information? Here are some additional useful links.

FVAP is there to help you through every step of the process. Contact them with absentee voting questions at 1-800-438-VOTE (8683).