The race for who will lead the United States for the next four years started seemingly years ago, but voters next month finally will begin casting ballots. This year is perhaps the most consequential election in decades, so American expats in Mexico need to vote this year.
To find out the ins-and-outs of voter registration for expats in Mexico, we spoke with Cathy Rice in Puerto Vallarta, the Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad Costa Banderas. The organization has been helping Democrats, Republicans and Independents register to vote for years.
“All U.S. citizens living outside the United States have the right to vote in U.S. elections,” Rice told us in a recent interview. “It doesn’t matter if you were registered to vote the U.S. or how long you have lived abroad.”
Rice said overseas voters need to request a new ballot for every calendar year they wish to vote. The U.S. government makes it easy through its website, votefromabroad.org.
“Although Democrats Abroad sets up voter registration tables at various locations in Mexico throughout the election year, we always recommend using votefromabroad.org, if you can,” Rice said. “The site provides voter registration requirements for all 56 U.S. voting jurisdictions, detailed instructions for submitting the form and verifying receipt and provides online assistance through its Help Desk.”
Expats can complete the one-page Federal Post Card Application (FCPA) online, which will cover you for all elections in the calendar year, including Primary, General and Special elections. If you do not want to complete the process online, you can fill out the information at one the Democrats Abroad events in these cities: Costa Banderas (Puerto Vallarta), Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, Lake Chapala, Mazatlán, Mérida and Mexico City. You can go to democratsabroad.org to find out voter information and find your local contacts.
“It’s important to remember when filling out your FCPA that when it asks where you last lived, indicate the last state you lived in, not the last state you voted in,” Rice said. “Once you complete the online form and send it to your local county registrar in the last state you lived in before moving abroad, be sure to give them a call to follow-up if you don’t hear from them within a month or so. You can find how to contact your local county registrar’s office on votefromabroad.org by clicking on your state and then the county you are registered in. It will give you phone numbers, emails and other contact information. States are required to send you your ballot 45 days in advance of any election.”
Many states now allow you to return your completed ballot electronically, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Here is a breakdown of what NCSL said is allowable for this election year.
Four states allow some voters to return ballots using a web-based portal: Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota. Missouri only offers electronic ballot return for military voters serving in a “hostile zone.” These states may also allow some voters to return ballots via email or fax.
Nineteen states plus the District of Columbia allow some voters to return ballots via email or fax: Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
Seven states allow some voters to return ballots via fax: Alaska, California, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas.
Nineteen states do not allow electronic transmission. Voters must return voted ballots via postal mail: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
If you plan to send your completed ballot through the mail, Rice strongly recommended that you use a carrier like FedEx to ensure that it gets there, and on time.
Ten states and three territories hold primary caucuses, which were created by the implementation of the McGovern-Frasier Commission some 50 years ago. Only one state, though, allows participation of citizens living abroad: Iowa, according to The Council of State Governments. The first-ever satellite Tele-Caucus in the state was the 2016 Democratic primary election. Expats and military from around the world were able to call in to a conference call by precinct. Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Hawaii, Kentucky (Republican-only), Maine and Washington state (Democratic-only). American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam are the three territories using caucuses for their primary elections.
Rice also recommended that you get started early – at least three months before your state’s primary election – to ensure that you can vote this year in all elections.