Ask the Consul – September, 2020

Question:  I am a U.S. citizen who hadn’t planned on being in Trinidad and Tobago this long and I’m worried I won’t get back to the United States before the November General Election. Is it still possible for me to vote from Trinidad and Tobago?

Answer: Thank you for your inquiry. Voting is an essential part of our role as citizens and yes, U.S. citizens currently overseas who are eligible to vote can participate in all general, primary, and special elections for federal offices. There is still time to request your absentee ballot and register to vote from abroad.

Most U.S. citizens can complete the voter registration and ballot request application online. You should begin by confirming your voter registration at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website FVAP.gov. Select your state’s voter portal to register. Once confirmed, follow these steps to vote in the 2020 U.S. elections:

  1.  Request Your BallotFVAP.gov has useful tools to help U.S. voters get information on their state’s absentee voting process, as well as access to online assistants and printable forms to register and request ballots. Read the voting guidelines for your state, as each state has different deadlines for requesting and receiving absentee ballots. You can also choose to complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) online or at the U.S. Embassy. When registering, ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballot to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state). Be sure to include your email address to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option, if applicable.
  1.  Receive and Complete Your Ballot: States are required to send out ballots 45 days before a general election for federal office. The Embassy recommends that you complete your ballot as soon as possible after you receive it. To ensure it reaches your local election officials by election day, we recommend you submit your ballot a month in advance – by October 02.

If you have registered to vote and requested your absentee ballot but do not receive your ballot, you should complete and return a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to ensure your vote reaches election officials by your state’s deadline. If your regular ballot arrives later, go ahead and complete and return it as well. Your Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot will only be counted if your regular ballot does not reach local election officials by your state’s deadline. Your vote will not be counted twice.

  1.  Return Your Completed, Signed Ballot: Some states allow you to return your completed ballot electronically. FVAP.gov will tell you whether your state regulations allow the forms to be returned electronically or if you must submit a paper copy. U.S. citizens submitting paper forms should ensure they sign their absentee ballots before sealing it in the mailing envelope. Unsigned ballots will be rejected by local election officials. If your state requires you to return paper voting forms or ballots to local election officials by mail, you can do so through international mail, professional courier service, or by dropping off completed materials at the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m, Monday through Friday. Your voting materials must have proper U.S. postage, which you can affix or you can use the official envelope template with postage paid provided in your voter materials.  Please note that it can take up to four weeks for mail to reach its destination if sent by the Embassy, which is why we recommend submitting no later than October 02. U.S. voters can confirm election officials received their ballot by visiting their state’s election website.

For additional information on voting overseas, subscribe to FVAP Voting Alerts (vote@fvap.gov), contact U.S. Embassy Port of Spain’s Voting Assistance Officer at (868)-622-6371, or send your questions to  acspos@state.gov.

the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) by visiting https://step.state.gov/step/ to r  For additional information on American Citizen Services, please visit the U.S. Embassy website: tt.usembassy.gov.