Help! I Didn’t Get My Military Absentee Ballot

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military absentee ballotsIt’s hard enough to for military families to exercise their right to cast ballots every election, even under ideal circumstances. The serviceman himself or herself has a chain of command to help out, but it’s tough to remember to register or stay registered among all the other challenges of military life.

For example, some state laws require officials to purge voter records after you miss so many elections. They’ll send you a letter to try to verify your existence before they drop you from the registered voter rolls for your district or county. But the U.S. Postal Service only forwards mail for six months.

If you PCSed or moved more than six months prior, you probably didn’t get that letter.

This was a problem for a number of military members in Florida – a hotly-contested swing state in the Presidential election this year. At least 30 active duty servicemembers in the Tampa area alone were dropped from Florida voter rolls.

It’s too late now, barring a court order, to register to vote in Florida. The deadline was October 8th, a month before the election.

If you believe you are properly registered to vote, and you requested an absentee ballot, it’s getting pretty late in the game. You can download a federal write-in ballot via the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program. That will get your vote counted for federal elections, anyway. For state and local elections, your mileage may vary. You’ll have to contact your local election officials to get a write-in or provisional ballot for the down-ticket elections in your jurisdictions.

You can also use the FVAP site to download a state and/or local write-in ballot if your jurisdiction makes it available.

Is it too late?

Well, that’s where your state laws come in. In Florida, your ballot has to be postmarked by the 6th of November, and must be received by the 16th. There’s a 10-day window that your ballot can be late but still counted under Florida law. Other states have different cut-off dates. Hawaii, for example, does not accept late absentee ballots. Your ballot must actually be received by election officials by the 6th of November to be counted.

Can I Register on Election Day and Vote Locally?

Possibly. There are a number of states nationwide that will allow you to show up at your local polling place on election day:

As of early November 2012, the following jurisdictions allow same-day registration.

  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Additionally, North Carolina allows same-day registration but only for early voters, up to three-days before the election. Ohio, as of this writing, allows for same-day registration from the last Tuesday in September through the first Monday in October – during the early voting period.

You can’t vote in your hometown local elections. But you can make your voice heard for federal elections, and for local and state elections in your current home.


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