Here are the top 10 questions we get asked.
If your spouse serves in the National Guard, Reserves, or is retired altogether from the military, then you probably vote in the district where you live.
If your spouse is active duty, and you are currently stationed overseas, then you are considered a “UOCAVA voter” and should register to vote through your “state of legal residence.”
If your spouse is active duty, and you are currently stationed within the U.S., you have a choice between voting where you live and voting “back home.” Now, it is usually recommended that you vote through your state of legal residence, as voting is one way of cementing your residency status even as you live away. However, if you’d rather vote in the district where you live, you can do that instead! Just be aware: if you try to vote locally, some states may require you to become a resident there first. If you don’t intend to change your residency, make sure you pay attention to the rules before you register.
For active duty folks, “residence” refers to the place where we call home, even when the military makes us move temporarily somewhere else. Usually, your residence is the state that shows up on your W-2 form or your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES). It determines where you pay state taxes and qualify for in-state tuition.
A lot of us maintain a residency “back home” even as we move around. Maybe that’s where we want to settle down once we leave the military. Maybe there are economic advantages to being a resident in that state. Whatever the reason, voting is one of many ways military families can maintain a connection back home and simplify their residency status.
In fact, you can be a resident somewhere even if you yourself have never lived there! The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) allows the civilian spouse of an active military service member to claim the same state of legal residence (SLR) as the service member while both live in another state. It provides protection to military spouses related to residency, taxes and, yes, voting.
If you decide to vote local to where you live, you can use normal civilian registration channels — nothing special as a military voter. With help from our partners at Register2Vote, we have that registration form ready for you to fill out on our website. It’s super easy, you don’t even need a printer!
If you decide to vote through your state of residence where you’re not currently living, you should use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).As long as you live away from that home, no matter whether that’s CONUS or overseas, you are considered an “absent” military family member and are eligible to use this form. It lets you register to vote and request an absentee ballot all in one!
Either route, you will typically need a social security number or state-issued ID to register. If you don’t have either, write that on the FPCA in Section 6 under “Additional Information.” States may also ask for documents that establish your residency or domicile there. Those rules and deadlines vary by state, so make sure you pay close attention to your state’s specifics.
If you registered to vote using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), then that form should have requested all the absentee ballots you will need for elections that year. Make sure you send in a new FPCA each year to renew that absentee ballot request.
You should also submit a new FPCA every time something changes (whether that’s your mailing address, your last name, etc.). Always make sure your registration records are up to date!
Every state is required to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before a federal election. That will be mid-September for this 2020 Presidential Election. Once your ballot arrives, we strongly recommend you fill it out and send it back as soon as possible! The number one cause of uncounted ballots is arriving too late. This will be especially important this year as mail delivery times get delayed.
If for some reason your absentee ballot doesn’t reach you by the time you expect, use FVAP’s Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) as a back-up. Even if your ballot eventually gets there, having this FWAB in the system will ensure your voice gets counted.
One of the most daunting aspects of being a military voter is gathering trustworthy information about politicians and issues on the ballot — especially when we live so far away from where we vote! We recommend two reliable resources: Vote411 and BallotReady. Both are free, online, nonpartisan platforms that let you plug in your address and read more about the candidates up for office as well as any ballot initiatives you may get to vote on.
There are many military spouses who may be hesitant to get involved in anything “too political” based on a belief that military family members must remain apolitical. After all, aren’t there rules in the military about not doing that sort of thing?
The short answer is: there really aren’t. While your service member has to abide by the Hatch Act and DoD Directive 1344.10 — the rules dictating political activities in the military — if you are a civilian spouse, you do not. You are your own person, free to be as outspoken as you choose.
Now, it’s good to know about your service member’s rules in case your actions overlap with theirs (for example, if you share a car or a joint email account). But those situations are rare, and we talk about them more here.
Again, the short answer is no. Your political opinions and activities are yours and yours alone. Using them to discriminate against your spouse is wrong and should never happen.There are countless examples of military spouses with successful careers in politics — even running for office themselves — without consequence. Almost always, this fear is overblown.
We wrestle with that fear (as well as the fear of losing friendships) in this article: Being political while married to the military
Yes, absolutely! It should be noted that the DoD rules that exist govern “partisan political activities” — in other words, pertaining to a candidate for office or political party. There are plenty of social movements and activism that are issue-based and not partisan.
Being anti-racist is not partisan. Human rights are not partisan. In fact, as has been modeled by members of our military leadership, this work is necessary and compatible with the military ethos.
We have Tips for Lobbying Decision-Makers to help you change hearts and minds. Whether you’re in a one-on-one meeting, a public town hall, or you’re sending an email while stationed miles away from your home district, these tips will help increase the odds that your message turns into action.
We also offer free online webinars on several topics related to being the best advocate you can be! From telling your story to answering tough questions — sign up today to join our programs.