Congratulations: you are an American citizen who has successfully waited until the last possible days to register to vote and request an absentee ballot.
The good news? There is still time, dear procrastinator, to cast your vote and rectify the state of affairs in your home country, no matter how jaded the remaining candidates in the 2016 US Presidential Election make you feel.
To register in time, we suggest you mail your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) form this week (before the national holiday), by following the simple steps below.
Step 1: Fill out the FPCA form
Filling out the FPCA form lets you register to vote and request an absentee ballot in one step. Go to www.fvap.gov and select your state. Click ‘Use FVAP’s Online Assistant’ and continue on to fill out all the necessary information.
Tip: choose ‘email/online’ as your first preference for ballot receipt.
Review and print (or download the form first as a PDF and print later). Sign and date.
Missed your state's deadline to submit the FPCA form? You can also request a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB), but rules for that vary by state. You can fill out the FWAB form on VoteFromAbroad.org, a non-partisan website run by Democrats Abroad.
Step 2: Submit your FPCA form
Check the instructions for your state. Some states allow you to submit an electronic copy of the FPCA. Others, like New York, ask you to send both an electronic copy via email AND a physical copy in the mail.
Be sure to also check deadlines for absentee ballot requests, which differ by state. The deadline for Texans to register is October 11, while Californians can register as late as October 24.
Sending by email
Scan the signed FPCA form into your computer. Be sure to also include the Electronic Transmission Sheet (this is automatically included in the PDF file you printed). Email these two pages directly to your election official (the email address is listed on the Electronic Transmission Sheet).
Sending by mail
You have two options: send via your local US Embassy or Consulate General free of charge and risk it arriving after the deadline of October 14 OR mail directly at your own expense via international courier services such as DHL or SF Express and ensure that it arrives on time.
Drop off your completed FPCA for delivery to the US via diplomatic pouch free of charge now through October 3 at the US Embassy in Beijing or Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang. If you choose this option, however, it will take 2-4 weeks to arrive, which may be after the deadline of October 14. See specific instructions for your city below:
You can drop off postage paid and addressed FPCA forms and ballots at the American Citizen Services office Monday through Friday between 08:30 and 11:30. Please bring your passport for identification and inform the guards you are dropping off a ballot. Please do not wait in line. Normal transit time from Shanghai to the U.S. is 2-3 weeks. If you have any questions, please call the Shanghai Voting Officer at (021) 3217-4650 or email ShanghaiACS@state.gov.
You can drop off postage included and addressed FPCA forms and ballots at the American Citizen Services office Monday through Friday between 08:30 and 11:30. Please bring your passport for identification and inform the guards you are dropping off a ballot. Please do not wait in line. Normal transit time from Guangzhou to the U.S. is 2-3 weeks. If you have any questions, please call the Guangzhou Voting Officer at (020) 3814-5775 or email GuangzhouACS@state.gov.
43 Huaxia Road, Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe District
You can get voting assistance, drop off your Federal Post Card Registration or your absentee ballot during our normal business hours from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. On Wednesday and Thursday, we are only open 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon. We are closed Thursday afternoons except for passport pickup and emergency situations. Please bring a photo ID like your passport, driver’s license to gain entrance to the Embassy. No appointment is required. Normal transit time from Beijing to the United States is 2-4 weeks. If you have any questions, please send an email to our voting officer at BeijingACS@state.gov.
Main Embassy Building: No. 55 Anjialou Lu, Chaoyang District
Ritan Branch: No. 2 Xiushui Dongjie, Chaoyang District
You can get voting assistance from the consulate or drop off your completed voting forms and ballots, addressed to your local election officials, during the Consulate’s regularly-scheduled American Citizen Services Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 1-4pm. Normal transit time from Chengdu to the United States is 14 days. You can drop off your Federal Post Card Application at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu during American Citizen Services’ hours (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 1:00 to 4:00). Please do not seal the envelope prior to coming into the Consulate. Due to security regulations we must inspect the mail prior to accepting it.
4 Lingshiguan Road, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041
Voters who wish to drop off their postage-paid forms or ballots may do so at the U.S. Consulate General Shenyang. The ballot box is located inside the front gate, at the guard booth. The ballot box is accessible from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, except on U.S. and Chinese holidays. You do not need to make an appointment or enter the Consulate building to drop off your voter registration or ballot. Forms and ballots will generally be posted within one week. Normal transit time from Shenyang to the United States is approximately 14 days. Please direct any questions to ShenyangACS@state.gov, or to (024) 2335-5188.
52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District, Shenyang 110003
Hong Kong & Macau
The Citizens Services Unit at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong is open for registration and ballot drop-off from 1:30-4:00pm Monday through Friday, except on public holidays. They ask that you bring your U.S. passport with you when you drop off the ballot to gain entry into the building.
26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong
Mail your FPCA form directly via DHL or SF Express International to ensure it will arrive well before October 14. The only downside is this could cost between RMB180-400, depending on how quickly you need it delivered.
To send via DHL, follow the official account on WeChat (DHL_Corporate), select ‘我要发件’ (I want to mail a document), ‘现金发件’ (pay with cash) and then fill in the address (in English) of the place you want your FPCA form to be picked up from (you should be present when the DHL representative arrives, as you will need to fill out another form, present a photocopy of your passport and pay).
Continue in DHL’s official WeChat to fill in your name and cell phone number and then request a time for your form to be picked up. When a DHL representative arrives, he or she will walk your through the process of filling in the address of your election officials back in the US. You can pay with cash or via WeChat.
Sending by fax
Fax your FPCA and Electronic Transmission Sheet directly to your election official. Some states may also require you to send a physical copy via mail, so double check.
Step 3: Receive your ballot
After submitting your FPCA, you should receive a blank ballot via email, mail or fax (depending on the preference you listed) within a couple weeks.
If for some reason you don’t receive your absentee ballot, contact your local election officials to inquire why. As mentioned above, you can also fill out a FWAB if your ballot does not arrive in time.
Step 4: Return your ballot
As with the FPCA, you can return your completed ballot to your local election officials free of charge via the nearest embassy or consulate or mail it directly at your own expense.
Remember, your vote really does count – many US elections within the past 10 years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1 percent. All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline.
So get out there and cast your vote before it's too late!
[Cover image via fvap.gov]