Base Logo
Official U.S. Marine Corps Website
Crossroads of the Marine Corps


Photo Information

This partial image of a full absente ballot accompanies an article on absentee voting in the July 28, 2016 edition of the Quantico Sentry

Photo by Courtesy of

Taking the mystery out of absentee voting

28 Jul 2016 | Valerie O’Berry Marine Corps Base Quantico

Approximately one in five voters is expected to cast their vote via absentee ballot in the next election. An absentee ballot is a vote that is recorded on paper and sent to the appropriate voting district through the U.S. mail. The absentee ballot allows citizens who are away from their home voting district to participate in an election and is a great way for military members and their families, who are away from home, to vote.

However, military members need to be aware that each state has their own voting laws and therefore dictates absentee voting rules. Absentee voting rules vary widely from state to state, but there are some similarities, such as being required to sign the ballot and in some cases have a witness sign the ballot as well, for example.

The government has attempted to make absentee voting easier for military members by establishing the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). The program offers a website ( where military members can get general information about absentee voting, gives recommended deadlines for sending in the ballot and provides links to information about each state’s absentee voting procedures.

The one common thread that absentee voting in each state carries is that you must be registered to vote in that state to cast an absentee ballot. If the military member would rather vote where they are stationed, this can be done by registering to vote in their local district – without losing their residency. This option allows service members to participate in local political decisions that may impact them directly.

To vote absentee, the easiest way to start is to visit There, a voter can find a link to their state of residence, get a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and print it out and fill it out by hand. Some states allow this form to be sent in by email, while some require you to fill it out and send it in via the U.S. Mail. The FPCA can both register someone to vote and also serves as an absentee ballot request form. FVAP recommends that this card be filled out by Aug. 1, 2016 for the next election, which is Nov. 8.

However, deadlines can vary by state so be sure to check when your state’s deadline is for this request. The FVAP website has each state’s deadline readily available.

The absentee ballot should arrive in the mail in early October. All the voter has to do is fill out the ballot, then follow the directions the state government provides for the ballot. Some states require a signed affidavit or envelope, for example. Then, send in your ballot by the deadline. The FAVP recommends Nov. 1 for voters who are stateside; Oct. 15 for voters residing outside the U.S.; and Oct. 10 for those on a ship at sea.

The most common reason that an absentee ballot is not counted is because it arrives too late. Election officials report that they commonly see ballots that arrive the day after the election – too late to be counted.

Other things that may disqualify an absentee vote, according to the NPR website, include:
•The voter forgets to sign the ballot or the envelope.
•The voter sends the envelope back but doesn’t include the ballot.
•The voter uses the wrong envelope.
•The voter votes in person, which disqualifies the absentee vote and the vote at the polls. It is illegal to vote twice, even if it is by accident.
•The signature on the ballot envelope does not match the one the state has on file. Some states use Department of Motor Vehicle signatures with which to compare the signature on the ballot.

Voters can make sure their ballot was received by their state by visiting the FVAP website and checking the status of the ballot.

For more information email or call 1-800-438-VOTE.
Marine Corps Base Quantico