Federal Write-In Ballots
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2005 in October 2004, the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) may now be used by all absent Uniformed Service voters both inside and outside the continental United States, as well as U.S. citizens residing overseas. This broadens the use of the FWAB, as military voters were previously not allowed to use it when residing inside the country but outside their voting jurisdiction.
The Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot is basically a back-up or emergency ballot used for the general election in the event that the voter does not receive their requested regular absentee ballot in time for it to be voted and returned to the local election official to be counted. If the voter does not have access to the hard copy, it is available online at the FVAP web site www.fvap.gov
The second change to the FWAB in the recent law concerns the absentee request deadline. Previously, the UOCAVA voter had to have requested an absentee ballot at least 30 days prior to the election. Now, the request must be received at least 30 days before the general election or before the deadline established by the state, whichever is later.
It is vitally important for voters to request absentee ballots as early as possible; the beginning of each year is advisable. Equally important is to keep the local election official's office notified of any address changes once a request is made. Absentee ballots that are Returned Undeliverable to the elections office because of a bad address automatically cancel the voter's absentee request, and the voter must make a new request providing the correct address.
State Write-In Ballots
No earlier than 180 days before a general election, an overseas voter may request a state write-in absentee ballot. In the request the voter must indicate that due to military or other contingencies that preclude normal mail delivery, the voter cannot vote a regular absentee ballot during the normal voting period. The ballot will contain only the races, and the voter must fill in the names of candidates OR write in the name of a political party, in which case all candidates of that party will be counted if they are in fact on the ballot.