US absentee voting: Florence resources

Florence’s US consulate presents steps to streamline process

Mary Gray
April 13, 2018 - 14:36

US citizens residing or studying in Florence who are eager to remain involved in the political process stateside have a number of both new and previously existing resources at their fingertips.  Working with the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), the nonpartisan organization charged with overseeing the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) on behalf of the Secretary of Defense, the US Consulate General Florence is taking steps to equip US citizens with tools to participate in the democratic process, even from afar. 

With the November 2018 mid-term elections on the horizon, an FVAP representative led an April 5 workshop on the absentee voting process at the US Consulate General Florence. Among the participants were leaders of several Florence-based, US-minded associations with voter registration drives or student-focused "Get out the Vote" efforts planned at a later date; stay tuned to The Florentine for details to come. 

Ahead of these community drives and events, US citizens interested in ensuring their votes will count can independently take the first steps in the absentee voting process. Although finer points can vary depending on the voter's state of registration, several steps are universal, outlined below.


FPCA (registration/ballot request)


All potential voters must first fill out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), available on FVAP.gov
, complete with an automated assistant. Hard copies, if preferred, can also be requested at the Florence consulate (tel. 055.266951).

The FPCA form, which can be used for 1) first-time voter registration, 2) absentee ballot requests and 3) updating contact information is the primary mode of communication with local election official(s). FVAP representatives advise even previously registered voters to send in a new FPCA each year, as early as January, to ensure contact information is up to date and to avoid missing absentee ballot request deadlines.

 

Ballot receipt and return


In submitting the FPCA, voters can specify how they prefer to receive their absentee ballots for the elections in which they want to vote: postal mail, email or fax. Options and timelines for returning ballots to local election officials vary from state to state, but a thorough Voting Assistance Guide on FVAP.gov explains key differences, dates and deadlines.

 

Backup: the FWAB


Voters concerned about receiving their absentee ballots in time have the option of sending in a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) as a backup option. Official FVAP sources say that if a voter ends up receiving their state ballot after submitting the FWAB, the state ballot can still be submitted, and only the latter will be counted. There is no penalty for submitting both.

 

Community concerns

 

A common concern among US citizens in Florence, particularly those who have resided abroad for many years, is the FPCA form's requirement of a US address. An FVAP representative at the April 5 training workshop confirmed that the address should always be the last place the voter lived in the United States, even if it was their parents' home and even if the building or street no longer exists. Questions also arose at the workshop about the absentee voting rights of US citizens who have never resided long-term within the United States – the children, for example, of many members of Florence's international community.  Not all states allow people fitting this profile to vote; a detailed outline of the ones that do can be found here.

The US Consulate General in Florence has a dedicated Voting Assistance Officer who can serve as a resource for those facing difficulties with the process; call 055.266951 for further information. The Consulate can also mail hard-copy absentee ballots by diplomatic pouch.

This article will be updated periodically as local groups organize voting drives and related events. For additional details about absentee voting, see the Frequently Asked Questions on the nonpartisan FVAP website and the Voting Assistance Guide.

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