How Do I Register to Vote as a Military Spouse?
If there is one thing military spouses feel like they are always doing, it’s filling out paperwork. Requests for medical forms, requests for school records, registration for new schools, sports, and activities. You go from one place to the next, filling in emergency contact information with the neighbor you haven’t met in person but who messaged you on Facebook, and you had no shame in asking her for her number so you had an emergency contact within 200 miles of you.
November elections are creeping up, and that means spouses have another set of forms to fill out- voter registration. So you may be asking, How Do I Register to Vote as a Military Spouse?
As military spouses, we have a unique duty in voting during each election as our service members are directly affected by those sitting in the big white house and on Capital Hill. But as with many things, being outside of our home state, or even the country can leave wondering how we are supposed to fill out the paperwork this time.
Register to Vote
For most citizen, registering to vote is simple. They can go online or in person to various offices to register in the state in which they currently reside. However, for a military spouse, this is a little more head-scratching.
First you have to determine permanent residency as each state has varying laws on which elections in which you can vote. This is a question that most spouses ponder at least once in their spouse’s career if they are not from the same state.
As of 2017, a military spouse can change their permanent residency to their service member’s permanent residency as long as they are living with their service member out of state due to military orders.
You can always stick with your own permanent residency (oftentimes where we grew up or our last address before getting married to the military…err, our service members). Many military spouses have opted to do this because it makes tax season a heck of a lot easier as you can file state taxes in one state versus several states (because if you don’t register as your spouse’s permanent residency, you have to file taxes in each state in which you worked in that year which sometimes is more than one).
Here is how you can claim permanent residency:
- Get a driver’s license in that state
- Register to vote in that state
- Pay taxes in that state
- Change your vehicle registration and title
Absentee voting is voting any time you cannot physically vote in your home state. There are many reasons people need to vote with an absentee ballot, and this is oftentimes how many service members and their families vote in local, state, and federal elections. You have to register for an absentee ballot in your home state prior to elections using the Federal Post Card Application. You can do this easily online at the Federal Voters Assistance Program. Voters must do this every year or every time they move in order to be properly registered to vote (although between you and me, we don’t re-register every year and somehow our absentee ballots make it to us no matter what.)
The FVAP allows you to vote in all federal elections. States have varying laws on how to vote for local and state elections, and whether you must be physically present in the state to vote. When you fill our your FPCA via the Federal Voters Assistant Program website, you will indicate in which state you are registering to vote (see above on how to decide your permanent residency), and you will be sent ballots for every election in which you are eligible to vote.
Voting When Living OCONUS
Voting absentee is simple when living OCONUS, and the same process as when living out of your home state. Simply fill out your FCPA via the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, or pick up a copy of an FCPA at your local consulate or embassy. Forty-five days before the election you should receive your Federal ballot to vote. Again, local and state elections vary per state, so you will have to check your state’s eligibility to see what, if any, elections you can vote on when not physically residing in the state.
Emergency Write-In Ballots
If you do not receive your ballot 30 days before an election, you can do an emergency write-in ballot. Visit the FVAP website, fill in your voter information, fill out the ballot, print, and then mail your ballot to your state’s local office. If you need help finding this information, visit the Voting Assistance Guideto get information like your state’s voting deadlines, state eligibility, and addresses for local offices.
Voting During PCS Season
Oh you’re PCSing again? I’m so surprised…
PCSing can make many things difficult, but voting isn’t one of them. You have several options to make sure your vote is counted even when you’re moving.
If you have established the same state of residency as your spouse (i.e., it’s not changing from one state to the next):
- If you are moving before the absentee ballot will arrive at your current duty station or it will not arrive in time at your next duty station, you can fill in out an emergency write-in ballot as described above. Be sure to fill this out only 30 days before the election is to take place.
If you have not established the same state of residency as your spouse, and will be changing states of residency during elections:
- Fill in the emergency write-in ballot for the state FROM WHICH YOU ARE PCSing. Until you have changed your permanent residency by getting a new driver’s license, address, etc, you are still a current resident of your old state even if the 928 boxes sitting in your house tell you otherwise.
- If you are able to change your permanent residency within 30 days the election, you must vote in person in your new state.
Remember that as military families, what happens on the Hill trickles down to us. Defense budget cuts and the decision to invade or aid are a result of who is sitting in those seats. It is our job to make sure that we put the best person for the job up there to represent us. Vote in your next election. Make your voice heard for you and for your family. Now you have the answer to how do I register to vote as a military spouse!
FVAP is a paid partner of Military Spouse