Time is running short — ‘coz we’re all far away from the voting booths, and unfortunately, our options for voting require us to ACT VERY SOON in order to have our voices heard. If you’re new or totally lost/confused about voting, maybe best to look here before reading this to get a good overview of the process.
For those of you who’ve already requested your ballot (if you haven’t done that yet, see below and DO IT NOW), all states are required to send ballots out LAST WEEK (by Sept 19, 45 days before the election). So you should have received that (assuming you previously requested it) — check your spam folders carefully if you haven’t. Contact your local election official if you still don’t have it now (find your election official here) and see below.
Most states now allow you to return your ballot by fax/email or vote online, in which case you have some time. Your ballot email will include instructions on exactly how to fill it out and return it. And you can scan and fax easily using your smart phone. If your ballot does not come with a cover sheet for you to return, be sure to include a Transmission Cover Sheet with your ballot material if it does not come with one —it’s available here
But many (21) states require that you return your ballot physically (3 states do allow some exceptions)! The fastest, and most expensive methods, still need 1-2 weeks, and the alternative needs 4+ weeks now. So you do NOT have much time to get those back. The states that require you to mail your ballot back are AL*, AR, CT, GA, ID, IL, KY, LA*, MD, MI, MN, NH, NY, OH, PA, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT*, and WI.
So if you vote in one of those states, you’ll need to act quickly when your ballot arrives.
Since now there is NO POSTAL AIRMAIL to the US available from Indonesia, your choices for returning your ballot are limited::
- Complete your ballot, following instructions sent with it, put all in an outer envelope with proper US postage, addressed and your return address indicated, and deliver it to the US Consulate to use their courier service for voting materials. Estimated delivery time is at least 4 weeks, so Oct. 2 is the last date you can be assured that your ballot will arrive by election day (Nov. 3). That’s less than 2 weeks from now! If more convenient, you can send your ballot return envelope (with US postage) in an outer envelope via a local courier (e.g. JNE, J&T, SiCepat) directly to the Embassy in Jakarta. The address to send to is:
U.S. Embassy Jakarta
Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan No. 3 – 5
Jakarta 10110, Indonesia
Ph: +62 21 5083 1000 ext. 0 (operator)
- Use a courier service such as EMS (at post office), DHL or FedEx. EMS is the cheapest (about 300,000 Rph), but it delivers it to the US in 7-10 days, and then your envelope gets put into the US mail system. So allow 2 weeks at a bare minimum for delivery. Others, e.g. DHS/FedEx, may still take 1-2 weeks for delivery but are considerably more expensive.
- Find a friend going back to the US soon who can take and mail your ballot there. Somehow you’ll need to use US postage or a post-paid envelope. But finding someone heading back now is not that easy, and you still need to allow time for USPS mail as well as your friend’s arrival there, so about 2 weeks minimum. Note that some states will not allow this since your balllot doesn’t have evidence that it came from a foreign source.
Your cheapest, and probably best, option then — other than #3 — is to submit it to the US Consulate for their mailing, but you have to do that SOON! You have until Oct 2 (for most states) to do that after receiving your ballot so as to get it back by election day. For that, you need to have a properly filled out ballot enclosed in a blank envelope and that enclosed in a stamped (US stamp) or post-paid envelope, properly addressed and your return address clearly on it. For the Bali US Consulate, you can drop it off and give to the security guard. Do NOT expect Consulate staff to do any of this for you (they may still have some US stamps — contact them 0361 233605 or CABali@state.gov). If you can somehow get a postage paid envelope or obtain US postage (e.g. a "Forever" stamp), that’s your best bet. PM or email me if you have problems getting US postage. For those in the Ubud area, one of our team makes regular trips to the US Consulate and we have some US stamps, so get in touch with us if that would help.
And yes, please complain about this situation to your Senator/Representative — there’s no excuse for such antiquated mailing requirements in this day and age that severely hinder so many Americans voting.
TIP#1: If you need to scan and/or fax your ballot , note that you can do that using your smart phone. See here for how to scan and fax a document with your phone
TIP#2: If you email or fax your ballot, you must include a cover sheet that waives your right to a secret ballot.. If you don’t have one, the best one to use is found here
TIP#3: You may be able to print a postage-paid envelope on to a regular envelope, see here for you to return your ballot in.
If you still haven’t received your ballot — there’s a special form known as a FWAB (Federal Write In Absentee Ballot) for this purpose. One is attached to this email for your use — just print it out, fill it in, and return as indicated. There are complete instructions for this here Then if later you do get your ballot, you can return that as a bit of insurance — that is NOT voting twice, it’s just replacing your votes in your FWAB.
I presume you know who you want to vote for Pres/VicePres, but you may not know about others you can vote for, e.g. Senator, Congress. You can get such information at https://ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup Then you can send it in by first putting your FWAB in a separate envelope (seal it), and then putting that in an envelope to be sent to your election official — you can find that info at https://www.votefromabroad.org/states.
For mailing it, you can return by Consulate mail or by courier: FedEx, DHL, or cheaper EMS at the Post Office. See ballot return instruction above.
Have you requested your ballot yet? If not, it’s time to do that NOW — time is running out!. Your local election official will begin sending ballots out next week (by Sat., Sept 19), so you need to get your request in ASAP so that you get your ballot in a timely fashion. As I’ve said before, requesting your ballot or even registering from here is a quick and straight-forward process. Basically you answer a few questions on a website, sign and return the form they generate from that, and then sit back and await your ballot (which will have return instructions with it). Simple.
Of if you prefer not to use a website for this, just fill out the attached FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) pdf file — note you can type in it on your computer/smart phone, and then print it, or print and then fill it out, and sign/date it. You’ll need to know where and how to send it — you can get that info here.
TIP #1: You must check the "email/online" box for how you want to receive your ballot — mail is much too slow.
TIP #2: In either case you might need to scan the signed copy — your smart phone can do that! For Android see here; for iPhone see here.