U.S. Citizens: Exercise Your Right to Vote

May 14, 2010

Across the United States, election workers are dusting off voting machines, updating registration lists and designing ballots. The 2010 U.S. election cycle is well under way. This year’s general election will include all the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the seats in the U.S. Senate.

If you are a U.S. Citizen 18 years or older, you are eligible to vote absentee in all federal elections and some state elections, even while residing abroad. But registration deadlines and primary election dates vary by state, so you must act quickly to make sure your voice is heard.

For federal elections, you must register in advance by using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which can be found on the Internet at www.fvap.gov/resources/media/fpca.pdf. The form must be filled out completely, signed, dated and returned to your state election official. Some states allow electronic transmission of the FPCA via fax or e-mail to speed up the process, but many still require the original by mail as well. Once your application has been processed, your state election official will send you a blank ballot to complete and return.

Be aware of mail transit times between Costa Rica and your home state. International mail is not always reliable, so pay attention to deadlines and leave sufficient time for mailing and processing. While you are waiting for your ballot, you may also wish to submit a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, also available online, to ensure your vote is counted. Although it may seem like you are voting twice, your vote will be counted only once.

Some states also allow overseas voters to vote in state and local elections and referenda. Eligibility and residency requirements are determined by the individual state. To find out if you can vote in your state of legal residence, or the state where you last resided prior to departure from the U.S., visit www.fvap.gov/vao/guide.html.

More information about the absentee voting process can be found on the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, www.fvap.gov, which is the official U.S. government resource for overseas absentee voters. Or visit the U.S. Embassy San José website, www.usembassy.or.cr, for links to important voting resources.

In short: 1) Check out the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website; 2) verify your state’s registration requirements and deadlines; 3) submit your Federal Post Card Application; 4) receive your absentee ballot in the mail; and 5) vote!

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