By Clair Whitmer, Overseas Vote Foundation
Summary: Even this late in the election cycle, it's not too late to get your ballot and return it on time if you're a U.S. citizen living overseas
You requested your ballot but didn't receive it yet? Or maybe you just procrastinated? Fortunately, you still have time to vote in 2010 if you remember one little acronym: FWAB.
What's an FWAB? It's the "Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot" and the official alternative ballot to use if your ballot is late or missing somewhere between your election official's office and your home abroad.
New legislation intended to make it easier to vote from overseas -- the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment or MOVE Act -- mandates that all states must now accept the FWAB for all federal elections. If you registered/requested a ballot at any point in 2010 and you don't have your regular ballot already, then it's time to use the FWAB.
Some states allow you to register/request your ballot up until Election Day; some allow you to register and vote on the same day. Is your state one of them? Look it up in the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) State-specific Voter Information Directory.
Likewise, many states will count your ballot if it arrives after November 2, 2010 as long as you have sent it on or before Election Day. What are your state's deadlines? Check OVF's 2010 Election Deadlines charts to find out!
The OVF online tools make using the FWAB easy. Enter your voting address and the FWAB wizard will automatically list the candidates running in your Congressional district. Want to know more about a particular candidate? Look up his or her bio in the OVF Candidate Finder which is powered by Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan resource for information about candidates.
Deciding the candidate you want is the only part you have to think about...the rest is easy. With the OVF FWAB, you simply Vote - Print - Mail.
The MOVE Act requires that states provide you an option to receive your blank ballots electronically -- via a website, email or fax. Although it is not part of MOVE, many states allow voted ballot return by the same means.
OVF advises caution: returning a marked ballot online provides no security or privacy guarantees. The very basis of our electoral system is the secret ballot. Your voting decisions are supposed to be private and election officials are required to protect the integrity of the ballot box at all costs. Email can be intercepted and online ballots changed on the way to their destination. Keep this in mind and consider returning your voted paper ballot as the safest option.
When returning a voted ballot by fax, most states require that you sign a waiver giving up your right to the privacy of your faxed ballot. Neither of these seem like good compromises to us. This is why OVF still strongly recommends that you return your voted ballot by mail.
If you are in a time crunch in returning your ballot, there is a solution! It's called, Express Your Vote.
With the support of FedEx Express, OVF is offering special delivery rates in 94 countries. Your voted ballot deserves the best treatment available. Go online to Express Your Vote and create your Air WayBill in a few simple steps. You can take it to a FedEx drop-off location, or arrange for a pickup.
Because of the MOVE Act, all eyes are on overseas and military voters this year. Everyone wants to know if the process of voting from overseas is improving! Just remember: the most important part of the process is not under the control of any election official.
It's YOU – because you need to take action. Take a moment to use the available tools, including the humble mailbox, to make sure your vote for Congress counts in 2010. There is still time to Vote in 2010!
For a complete suite of voter services as well as news and information about overseas voting, see the Overseas Vote Foundation Web site (www.overseasvotefoundation.org)
Express Your Vote: www.overseasvotefoundation.org/overseas/ExpressYourVote.htm
First Published: Oct 27, 2010