Americans : How To Vote While Out Of The Country

Steph and I have talked about writing this post since Trump got into office and this Kavanaugh circus is making me extra terrified for November and it has finally motivated me to put this together.

Why?

Let me explain. I am currently in the United States, and have been for the past 5 months. The longest I’ve been in the country in one stint in over 5 years. I’ve gotten very invested in politics. Something that I was always an armchair supporter of in the past. I’d vote every 4 years, only if it was convenient for me, of course. I barely even knew who my congressman or woman was let alone knew when to vote for them.

Now, though, it’s a completely different story. I’ll be honest, I slept better, had significantly less stomach aches, didn’t break into spontaneous tears and read a lot more fiction before getting involved in politics. But I am so glad I am now paying attention.

I want to have conversations and still, even today, when I try to bring up this trial, or big political news stories of the past two years, it shocks me each and every time when I still stumbleupon people who aren’t paying attention.

So often, in my circle of travelers, I hear, “I don’t even know how to vote when I’m out of the country.”

This is one small step for Americans, hopefully, it’s at least something I can do to help!

Here’s how to vote when you’re out of the country as an American!

First, start here: Vote.org. You need to register to vote.

At the time of publishing this, it is not too late to register to vote for the Mid-Term elections coming up in November.

You can check when your deadlines are based on your state of residence here: https://www.vote.org/voter-registration-deadlines/

What if you don’t have a US address? Aka you’re an actual expat?

All you need to do is use your last known county and state of RESIDENCE in the US. You can not use a PO Box and you do not need to have access to that address to receive mail or anything.

If you haven’t lived in the USA in a long long time, this may be challenging. There are a few ways of figuring it out and you can find some ideas here, like checking with the credit bureau.

How do you actually register to vote?

You can register to vote in like 30 seconds using this link: https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/

All you need is your Name, Last Address of Residency, and an email address.

Next step depends on if you still have a valid State ID or Driver’s License. This can not be a passport. Fun fact, passports don’t print your address on them, I just figured that out recently!

If you do have a State issued ID still then it will push you through to your state’s DMV website where you’ll need to either upload a photo of it, or the number from it and you’ll need to know the last 4 digits of your social security number.

If you don’t have one, you just need to fill out a VERY SIMPLE form.

BAM! You are now registered to vote.

What if you don’t know if you’re registered to vote or where you’re registered to vote?  

Guys, this is so easy. You can also quickly and efficiently and easily check this online using this website – https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/. It takes 30 seconds people!

Ok so now you’re registered. What’d that take all of 20 seconds?

How do you vote if you can’t be in the USA in person?

Yet again, this is easy but has a few more steps and isn’t only online. Fill out this form- https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/vote/VoterInformation.htm

You will need your registered address, your birthdate and the last 4 digits of social security number or driver’s license number. If your current mailing address is not where you are registered to vote there is an option to enter that. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THAT ADDRESS CORRECT. That is where they will be mailing your ballot. So kinda important that it’s right.

It will then use your information to fill out an Absentee Ballot request form and a link will be emailed to you to download the form. You just need to print it out and mail it to your voting place. It will give you CLEAR directions of where to mail this to and what happens next. Follow the directions people.

They recommend starting this at least 45 days prior to an election. Snail mail is called snail mail for a reason guys.

They then process your request and will mail you a ballot.

Good news, I think the ballot comes with an envelope so you don’t even need to go buy one of those!

Make sure to mail the ballot back at least 7 days prior to the actual election.

Most states will automatically mail you a ballot every year. And if you happen to be home in the period prior to an election, you can fill it out and drop it in the mail for the actual election.

Some states actually open up voting earlier than actual election day to help make it more accessible for those traveling, or with limitations. Check your state’s specific guidelines on this.

You can find more detailed information about absentee voting and early voting broken down by state here.

AND BAM! You’re done!

Now that you can and WILL vote, it’s important to know what you’re voting on and for. Make sure to do your due diligence. There are ample resources out there to help you sort through your values and find the candidates that align to them.

Please try to find unbiased news outlets, unbiased, factual information and go into your vote knowledgeable and well-informed. Lifehacker has a few good options here. And this website has an easy quiz to use to determine which candidates align with what you care about.

This is the only way this country is going to change. If people start waking up, paying attention and taking action.

You may be out of the country for various reasons, but at the end of the day, the actions of the United States are going to impact you somewhere down the road, it’s your duty as an American to help make that a positive impact.

Megan Stetzel

Megan is a girl that shouldn’t travel. She’s gluten free, allergic to everything else, falls off motorcycles, poops her pants, gets bit by stray dogs and yet she’s still been traveling the world. She's the co-founder and editor of Why Wait. Read More About Megan here.

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3 thoughts on “Americans : How To Vote While Out Of The Country”

  1. I may be at the point of no return! I fear I need an article about “How to get out of the country so you don’t have to vote!” These choices are really between bad and worse!! All kidding aside, great article, a democracy should have close to 100% voting participation or it’s citizens are just not taking their responsibility serious.

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