How to Vote if You Can't Make It to the Polls on Election Day

Instructions on how to file absentee ballots for ex-pats, military members, the sick, or those away for school or business.

The following non-partisan information was written and provided by Marjorie Berlinghof, Montgomery County Democratic Committee Area 6 Leader.

Overseas residents

Do you have friends and family who are US citizens who reside temporarily or “permanently” outside the US?  If so, take note.  They can vote in the 2012 election and voting by mail has been made quicker and easier for them.

Overseas voters can go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website at www.fvap.gov.  There they will get the information they need about voting, particularly the PA regulations, and the form they need. It is titled: Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request.

This form is the same both to register and/or to request an absentee ballot. What is unique about overseas voting is, foreign residents are allowed to receive their ballot online, via e-mail. Use of fax or regular postal services are also an option. Using e-mail facilitates the process.

Here are the steps:

  1. Obtain a FPCA form by printing it off the Internet.
  2. Fill it out as instructed with all required data.  Pennsylvania requires a Pa. driver’s license number or the last four digits of the social security number, and does not require a witness to the signature or use of a notary public.  Box 9 can be left blank.
  3. Put completed form in envelope and mail it promptly with proper postage to:

Montgomery County Board of Elections
PO Box 311
Norristown, PA 19404 – 0311

       4.   If you asked to receive ballot via e-mail, it will be sent online. Print it, vote on it paying careful attention to instructions, then put it in envelope and mail it back to above address using proper postage.  Voted overseas ballots are allowed an additional week to arrive back in Norristown, that is, until 11/9 this year.

Any questions or problems can be answered or solved by Helene Moio at 610-278-3275 or Hmoio@montcopa.org

Domestic absentee ballot use

Right now is the time to ask whether you or friends and family, especially 18-22 year-olds, will be voting in person in November.  If the answer is “No” or “Maybe Not,” take steps ASAP to request an absentee ballot. 

That means if business, study or family obligations could take you away on Tuesday, Nov. 6, even if you’re only out of the community between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., or if health issues could prevent you from making it to the polls, you are eligible to request an absentee ballot. 

Go to voterservices.montcopa.org for information and forms. What has changed from previous elections is that you must include a PA driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of your social security.  Download the form, fill it out, and mail it in. Ballots should start arriving at designated addresses in mid to late September, depending on when requests are received.  Ballots go out daily, as requests are made and processed, until the last week in October. Completed absentee ballots must by received back at Voter Services on or before Friday, Nov. 2. 

If you request a ballot, you don’t have to use it if your plans change.  Or if you send it back in, but find you can vote in person, you should go to your poll, request that the absentee ballot be voided, and vote in person.  Ask yourself if it’s better to take steps to be safe or to find yourself out-of-luck.

If you have any questions regarding your request, your ballot, or on voting in general, voter services can be contacted at 610-272-3275.  An address and e-mail are listed above.

Some people think absentee ballots aren’t counted.  That’s wrong.  They are counted every election.  In fact, each ballot is examined twice to assure an accurate tally. Last November a handful of votes determined many elections. Make sure your voice is heard either by voting in person or by mail.

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat August 15, 2012 at 08:33 AM
This "FPCA" form for simultaneously registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot and is for OVERSEAS US citizens and military, or their dependents ONLY. It is NOT for US-based absentee voters. You can access an easier, more user-friendly, non governmental system at Overseas Vote Foundation www.overseasvotefoundation.org - they can help all overseas and military voters from all states and territories. US domestic voters and those who wish to vote absentee within the US - you should visit U.S. Vote Foundation www.usvotefoundation.org for state-specific, online assistance to generate your forms, instructions, and mailing address. This will work for all voters from all states.
Daniel Siroky August 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM
The form is easy enough to get, but ther are a couple of odd boxs to fill out that I wonder if anybody knew how. The section labeled "post office" and the one labeled "ward" are confusing. What do they want in those boxes?
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