Not at home? You can still vote

By Land Line Staff

If you’re on the road or overseas, you may vote by absentee ballot, or, depending on the state where you live, you may also vote prior to Election Day.

Across the country, some general rules apply when filing absentee ballots. For example, you must be registered to vote; you must send in a request to the appropriate election official; the request must be mailed at a specific time; and a ballot will be mailed up to 30 days before each election — and it should be returned by a specific day, or it will not count.

According to the Federal Election Commission, absentee ballots, depending on the state, can be requested by contacting a county clerk, county auditor, county registrar or supervisor of elections, or the board of elections.

Early voting
There are 31 states now offering some type of early voting. This means any voter in those states can simply decide to vote early. “No-excuse” early voting differs from absentee voting in that voters may visit an election official’s office or, in some states, other satellite voting locations, and cast their ballot in person.

Satellite voting locations vary by state, and may include other county and state offices, grocery stores, shopping malls, schools, libraries and other locations.

Early voting generally is conducted on the same voting equipment used in the regular election, as opposed to absentee voting, which is conducted on mail-in paper ballots. The time periods for early voting varies from state to state, but most often it is available up to two weeks before Election Day.

How to vote absentee
A voter, or someone designated by the voter, may request an absentee ballot, by mail or by telephone. One request can over all elections within a calendar year.

The person requesting an absentee ballot must disclose:

  • The name of the voter for whom the ballot is requested;
  • The voter’s address;
  • The last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number;
  • The voter’s driver’s license number, if available;
  • Relationship to voter, if someone else is requesting the ballot for you; and
  • The requester’s signature (for written requests only).

Marked ballots must be mailed or delivered in person with the deadline typically at the close of polls on Election Day.

Designees may pick up no more than two absentee ballots per election and must have written authorization by the voter, present a picture I.D. and sign an affidavit.

Candidates may pick up absentee ballots only for members of their immediate family.

If you have obtained an absentee ballot but decide to vote at the actual polling place in your precinct on Election Day, you must take the absentee ballot with you to the polls, whether or not it has been marked.

However, if you are unable to return the ballot, you may execute an affidavit stating that the absentee ballot has not been voted and then vote at your precinct.

Voting while overseas 
Members of the armed forces stationed overseas can vote by absentee ballot.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program in the Office of the Secretary of Defense is responsible for administering the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

This law provides that members of the U.S. uniformed services and merchant marine and their family members may vote absentee while away from their place of voting residence, wherever stationed, within or outside the United States.

For more information on military and overseas voting, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site at www.fvap.gov, or call 1-800-438-VOTE (1-800-438-8683). The Voting Assistance Program also serves non-military U.S. citizens residing abroad.

For information on obtaining an absentee ballot or to find out if your state offers early voting, contact your state’s elections office.