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Friday, April 18 2014 @ 04:04 AM EDT

FAQ: Can I Vote At The US Embassy In The Upcoming Elections?

Feedback By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received this afternoon via email: "Hey Don, I think i know this but, just wanted to ask to make should. Can i go to the U.S. Embassy to vote in the coming Preidental election? Thanks. LE."

Editor's Comment: No, you cannot cast your vote at the US Embassy, as far as I know. You can, however, obtain an absentee ballot which you can send in by mail, and vote that way. Interestingly enough, the US Embassy has dedicated an entire section of their website to voting where you can go to learn more. But since this is a public service announcement, I'm just going re-post their content below... (more)

Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), the right to vote in federal elections can be exercised by U.S. citizens in every corner of the world. Federal elections include primaries, as well as general and special elections for the President, Vice President, U.S. Senators, and U.S. Representatives to Congress. The UOCAVA applies only to federal elections. However, many states have enacted legislation whereby certain categories of citizens residing overseas can vote by absentee ballot for state or local officials. The same procedures for obtaining ballots are used for both local and federal elections.

The process is straightforward. You need to submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to the voting officials in the appropriate state in the United States. Once they have received it and confirmed your registration, they will send you an absentee ballot which you will then fill out and return according to the instructions provided along with the ballot itself.

The appropriate state is the state of your "voting residence." A voting residence is the legal residence or domicile in which you could vote if you were present in that state. The rules for determining that state depend on your status overseas.

Military and Merchant Marine members, and their spouses and dependents, may register to vote in the state that the member claims as his or her residence.

  • Civilian U.S. Government employees overseas, and their spouses and dependents, generally register in the state they claim as their legal residence.
  • Overseas citizens (not affiliated with the U.S. Government) must vote in their last state of residence immediately prior to departure from the United States. This rule applies even if the voter no longer maintains any abode in that state nor has any intention of returning to it.
  • American citizens who have never resided in the United States should apply to the state where their American citizen parent(s) last resided, although they should be aware that not all states will grant such a request. Please refer to the state instructions available in the Voting Assistance Guide (PDF - 2.6MB).

    Please go to the following websites for more information: Absentee Voting Information for U.S. Citizens Abroad

    Mailing guidance for Panama. Print out the completed FPCA and the (U.S.) postage-paid envelope containing the address of your local election officials. You can drop off the postage-paid envelope (containing your FPCA) at the Embassy and we will mail it back home for you without the need to pay international postage. If itís easier for you to use Panama's postal system, be sure to affix sufficient international postage and allow sufficient time for international mail delivery.

    International Letter Mail: You may mail your Federal Postcard Application or voted ballot to the United States through the Panamanian mail system, with appropriate international postage. Mail to the U.S. takes approximately ten days.

    Domestic Mail: DPO mail to some destinations in the United States takes approximately 8 days. Voters should submit their ballots to the U.S. Embassy no later than two weeks prior to Election Day (October 23). Ballots must be in a pre-paid postage envelope or the sender should attach first-class U.S. postage (45 cents). Envelopes without postage will be returned to sender. Sealed and stamped envelopes may be taken to the Guard building at the Embassy vehicle entry point at the upper level (called the Service CAC) to be mailed to the US.

    Make your vote count! Follow your Stateís absentee voting procedures carefully. Send in your FPCA before the registration deadline. When you get your ballot, vote and mail it promptly so it reaches local election officials by your Stateís absentee ballot receipt deadline.

    Questions? If you have any questions about registering to vote, please contact Panama's Voting Assistance Officer at 507-317-5000 .

    IMPORTANT INFORMATION: New absentee voting laws are in effect for the 2012 elections. You may no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request. All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot in U.S. elections should complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year. States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election. No matter what State you vote in, you can now ask your local election officials to provide your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your State). You can now also confirm your registration and ballot delivery online. Be sure to include your email address on the form to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option. This is the fastest and most reliable way to receive your ballot on time, and we strongly recommend every voter take advantage of it. Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) website at www.FVAP.gov.

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