Some citizens, such as people serving in the military who are away from their permanent home on Election Day, their families, or U.S. citizens who are living abroad, have special voting rights and ways to register to vote. These people have the choice of either requesting a mail-in absentee ballot the same way as other registered voters, or they can apply to register and/or vote through special programs for military and overseas voters as described below.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is a federal law that requires states to allow certain voters who are absent from their county of residence to have special rights that provide an expedited means for them to register and vote by mail-in absentee ballot. In order to qualify under the provisions of UOCAVA in this state, a voter must be a legal resident of North Carolina. Citizens covered by UOCAVA include:
- A member of the active or reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States who is on active duty.
- A member of the Merchant Marine, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, or the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.
- A member of the National Guard or state militia unit who is on activated status.
- A spouse or dependent of a uniformed services member as listed above.
- U.S. citizens residing outside the United States.
Special Voting Options for Military & Overseas Voters
The two special ways to register and vote for military and overseas voters are the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The advantage of the FPCA is that the voter receives a full local ballot that includes all ballot choices, including local contest and ballot items. Meanwhile, the FWAB is a simpler option if the voter's primary objective is to vote in prominent federal contests, such as the race for U.S. President. However, a voter may vote for all contests (federal, state and local) for which he or she is eligible, but the voter must obtain information for local contests and ballot items in order to write in a choice for those items.
A military-overseas voter need only apply for an absentee ballot by one method; either the FPAC or the FWAB, but not both. Generally speaking, the FWAB serves as a backup to the FPCA. For most voters the FPCA is the best option.
If the application is complete and the person is qualified to vote, the county board of elections will mail a voter registration card to the applicant to provide notice of the registration. This mailing is non-forwardable and also serves to verify the applicant’s address. If a voter card is returned by the postal service as undeliverable, then a second mailing will be sent to the voter. In the event that that second mailing is also returned as undeliverable, then the applicant’s voter registration may subsequently be denied.
Voter registration applicants, who have met the voter registration deadline, should expect to receive their voter card within 1 to 2 weeks. Applicants should contact their county board of elections if they do not receive their voter card within two weeks. Note: The applicant must have transmitted the registration application by the registration deadline; otherwise, the voter card will not be mailed until after the completion of the election.
Federal Voting Assistance Project (FVAP) links:
Where to Send the Request
To register to vote and/or request an absentee ballot, UOCAVA citizens may complete a FPCA or FWAB and send the form to their county board of elections using one of these methods:
NC State Board of Elections
PO Box 27255
Raleigh, NC 27611-7255
|Email Address and Fax Number are for use by Military and Overseas
The request must be physically signed prior to submitting it to the county board of elections. The deadline for individuals eligible under UOCAVA to register to vote and/or request an absentee ballot is 5:00 p.m. on the day prior to Election Day.
Only the voter may sign his or her FPCA or FWAB application. Family members may not sign these forms on the voter's behalf.
Requesting & Receiving a Ballot
Federal Postcard Application (FPCA)
When requesting a ballot, UOCAVA voters may elect to receive their balloting materials by mail, fax or email. Be sure to designate your transmittal preference on your FPCA application, and provide the appropriate contact information required to transmit the materials.
When official ballots are available: Ballot materials will be sent to you as soon as ballots are available for a given election. Absentee ballots are available 30 days prior to municipal elections for those municipalities that permit absentee voting, 50 days prior to statewide primaries, and 60 days prior to general elections. For any other type of election, ballots will be available 50 days prior to the election. After submitting a FPCA, military-overseas voters will receive a ballot for any election for which they are eligible during the year that the request is received.
Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
The military-overseas voter may also elect to vote a FWAB in lieu of a regular ballot. In North Carolina, military-overseas voters may use a FWAB application to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and vote for all federal, state and local contest items for which the voter is eligible. The FWAB links above go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, where voters will be led through a series of automated questions to set up the FWAB application.
The voter can vote for any ballot items that would be on the regular ballot, however, the voter must obtain the choices for those ballot items. The voter can either obtain this information by contacting his or her local county board of elections, or by looking up his or her sample ballot on the State Board of Election main page. The FWAB is an official military-overseas ballot, so if you submit a FWAB, your county board of elections will not send you a regular ballot.
Returning the Ballot
The military-overseas voter may return his or her voted ballot, including a FWAB, via mail, fax or email. The deadline to return military-overseas ballots is by the close of polls on Election Day (7:30 p.m. EST). If the ballot is received later than that hour, it will not be timely, unless the voter transmitted the ballot by 12:01 a.m. on the day of the election (voter time) and the county board receives the ballot by the last business day before the county canvass. The county canvass is normally conducted 10 days after the General Election and 7 days after other elections. When returning the ballot by mail, no postmark is required.
Before returning the ballot, the military-overseas voter must sign the Affirmation Of Military-Overseas Voter. The affirmation will be included in the instruction materials that are included with the blank ballot. If the balloting materials are mailed, then the affirmation is also on the back of the container-return envelope. Detailed instructions on returning the voted ballot are included with the absentee balloting materials sent to the voter.