Voting in the USA from abroad this year


vote US voting in 2017

This is an “off year.” Except for possible special elections to fill vacancies, there will be no voting for either chamber of the US Congress. But there are two governor’s races that have often been bellwethers for things to come, the contests in Virginia and New Jersey. In both of these states the governors are term-limited, so new national figures may arise from those races. There are legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey. Because there was gerrymandering, a court has ordered elections to be held this year for the lower house of the North Carolina legislature, but that’s being appealed and may or may not happen.

There are many municipal elections this year, with New York and Los Angeles leading the list of mayoral races. Also electing mayors are Boston, Charlotte (NC), Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Jackson (MS), San Antonio, Albuquerque, San Bernardino and Seattle. Here and there people will be voting for city councils, school boards, county commissions and many other elected bodies or offices.

Turnout in off years is usually lower, which means that committed minorities can have more clout than usual. For voters living overseas, there are other considerations that often keep the vote turnout down. People who are dual citizens or who have lived abroad for a long time and have no plans to go back often let go to their old state and local ties even if who runs the US federal government is of the utmost importance to them. This year Republicans will be looking to consolidate gains and Democrats will be looking to stage comebacks in many places. With a closely divided and sharply polarized national electorate, look for surprises.

The American Citizens Services section of the US Consulate in Panama has sent out the following message about voting this year:

Just voted in November? Still traveling or living overseas? You should register and request your absentee ballot to vote again in 2017 to ensure your election office knows where to send your ballot for any upcoming special elections for federal office. Some states are also holding gubernatorial or other statewide elections this year.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recommends all overseas US citizens send in a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) early every year. The FPCA is the registration and ballot request form accepted by all states and territories.

You can use the FPCA online assistant, complete the fillable PDF version, or pick up a hard copy version from your nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Be sure your contact information is accurate in case your election office needs to reach you.

If you’d like more information on the Federal Voting Assistance Program or need help with the absentee voting process please go to or call FVAP at 703-588-1584 (toll free 1-800-438-VOTE or DSN 425-1584) or email

Toll-free phone numbers from 67 countries are listed on the FVAP website. You can also find FVAP on Facebook at or follow @FVAP on Twitter.


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