Top 15 Absentee Ballot Questions of 2016

Here are the most commonly asked Domestic and Overseas Absentee Ballot questions from our Voter Help Desk. Have a look and see if your question is answered.

1. Is there still time to request an absentee ballot?

  • There may still be time to request an absentee ballot.
  • If not, you may be able to vote early; many states offer some form of early voting.
  • Check the Election Dates & Deadlines chart for absentee ballot request deadlines and early voting dates in your state. (Notice the toggle to overseas voter dates!)

2. Where’s my ballot?

  • If you sent your ballot request form to your election office and confirmed that you are registered, but don't yet have your ballot - it is good to check on its whereabouts as soon as possible.
  • Go to the State Voting Requirements directory: Look up your state and open the "Am I Registered - State Lookup Tools" section. There you will see a "Where's My Ballot" link as well - if your state offers it (they don't all have this).
  • If the "Where's My Ballot" link is unavailable or you do not find your ballot, you will need to look up and call your election office - they manage ballot sending and counting.

3. Is there a deadline to vote and return my absentee ballot?

  • Of course there is a deadline! And of course the deadline differs by state (this is America!:-)
  • Check the Election Dates & Deadlines chart. (Notice the toggle to overseas voter dates!)
  • Try to get it there before the deadline.
  • Best to vote and send your ballot as soon as you receive it.

4. Can I view my sample ballot?

  • Many states offer a service that allows you to view your sample ballot.
  • Go to the State Voting Requirements directory:
  • Look up your state and open the "Am I Registered - State Lookup Tools" section. There you will see a “Can I View My Sample Ballot?" link - if your state offers it.

5. I received my absentee ballot. When should I return it?

  • Always complete and return your absentee ballot as soon as possible.
  • It is best to take your ballot to the post office and make sure it gets postmarked to confirm that it was returned before the deadline.

6. Why am I being asked to sign the outside of the ballot return envelope?

  • It is essential that you sign the outside of the ballot envelope as indicated on your envelope.
  • This is for the purpose of signature matching, to confirm your identity.
  • When the ballots are prepared for counting, the envelope and the ballot will be separated in order to keep your ballot confidential.

7. Can I drop my ballot off at my local election office?

  • Yes, you can drop your ballot off in person at your election office - but please try to do so BEFORE Election Day. 
  • Be sure it is handed to an election official in order to record its on-time arrival.
  • Check the Election Dates & Deadlines chart to be sure of your state's deadlines.

8. I received my absentee ballot, but I have a question about it (or the envelope). Who should I ask?

9. Who counts absentee ballots and are all ballots counted?

  • Absentee ballots are counted by your Local Election Office.
  • Strict ballot counting procedures are in place to protect the confidentiality of your vote.
  • ALL ballots must be counted: that is the law of the land.Every Local Election Office must “certify” the results of the election.
  • This requires that every ballot is counted and/or accounted for - this is not an option. It is a requirement.
  • Even if the results of the election are called before the end of ballot counting (due to the margin), all ballots must be counted.

10. Do I need to vote for every contest/race on the ballot?

  • No, you do not have to vote for every contest or race or proposition on the ballot
  • Your ballot will still be counted even if you do not complete it in full.

11. My overseas absentee ballot is late; what should I do?

  • Overseas Ballots are sent as of 45 days prior to the election - good idea to check it if yours has not appeared yet
  • Go to the State Voting Requirements directory: Look up your state and open the "Am I Registered - State Lookup Tools" section. There you will see a "Where's My Ballot" link as well - if your state offers it (they don't all have this).
  • If the Where's My Ballot link is unavailable or you do not find your ballot, you will need to look up and call your election office - they manage ballot sending and counting.
  • If you cannot obtain your ballot, please use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

12. Where can I find the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB)?

13. What if I sent in the FWAB and my actual ballot arrives from my election office?

  • Even if you used the FWAB, you should vote the ballot that is sent to you and return it.
  • Your election office will replace your FWAB with your actual ballot before counting begins.

14. I am voting from overseas, but am planning to give my ballot to someone to carry back to the US and mail there - is that a good idea?

  • NO! That is a terrible idea.
  • Overseas ballots need an overseas POSTMARK or they risk being rejected.
  • Mail overseas ballots from overseas and make sure the postmark is put on the envelope and not blurred.
  • If you take your ballot to a consulate or embassy, they will mark it appropriately (but they will not necessarily be faster than the post office).
  • If you send the ballot through an express courier service (like FedEx or DHL), the waybill will indicate the date of sending.

15. What postage do I need for my absentee ballot?

  • It is always best to take your ballot to the post office to be sure that the postage is correct and that it is clearly postmarked.
  • Here's an informative article about postage for absentee ballots.

Bonus Question: Can I vote online?

  • You’re kidding, right? (Hi, Julian, hi Vlad!)
  • If you're not kidding, please think about if you really want to vote online and expose your vote to hacking, tampering, or interception.
  • Just about every aspect of the voting process is online, but casting your ballot is not.
  • Some states do offer overseas voters the option to return ballots by email, but if you have a time to return it on paper, we suggest you opt for the post as your first choice.


If you have a voting question that is not answered in the above list, please contact our Voter Help Desk!

Or, you can write to: