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Absentee ballots for military members

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Air Force officials recently announced that the application window to apply for Civilian Development Education has opened. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Robin Meredith)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Voting is a cornerstone of American democracy. However, it can be an obstacle course for military members due to frequent moves or deployments.

People vote by absentee ballots to vote in a state where they have established residency but are not currently located. Establishing residency means that an individual has taken steps that indicate an intent to live in the state. Each state has different requirements for establishing residency for voting. Factors such as paying local taxes, registering a car, receiving a driver’s license or voting in that state on a prior occasion can all be indicators of residency.

Once it is known in which state a person will vote, casting a ballot happens in just four simple steps:      

     1.  Complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). This application is standardized for use across all states, and it allows voters to receive a ballot for all federal elections in which they are eligible to vote. It acts as both a registration and an absentee ballot request form. As a military member, you are encouraged to fill out a new FPCA every year and each time you move.

     2.  Sign and send the FPCA to a local election office. This is the election office in the county in which you have established residency. You can find the mailing address and information about your state’s residency requirements by visiting www.fvap.gov and navigating to the “Military Voter” page.   

     3.  Receive an absentee ballot, vote, and sign it.

     4.  Return the ballot. After you vote and sign your ballot, return it to your state following the instructions on the ballot before the stated deadline. These dates can affect whether your vote is counted, so make sure you are paying close attention.

For further information on requesting your absentee ballots, please refer to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website at www.fvap.gov.