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Feb 26, 2012

PSA: Absentee Ballot Changes FOR USA Citizens

I thought this message I received from the US Embassy was important enough to share for all the US citizens in Israel who might want to vote in upcoming elections..


Be an active voter.  Start thinking about your participation in the U.S. 2012 elections today!

New absentee voting laws are in effect for the 2012 elections.  The Consular Section staff at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is ready to assist with completing your Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) -- the form you need to complete this year to participate in the 2012 elections as an overseas absentee voter.  Our purpose is to inform and educate you about your voting rights, to ensure you are able to exercise your right to participate in elections for federal offices (president, vice president, senator, and representative), and to assist you with voting in state or local elections, if allowed by your state.

You will no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request.  All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot in the 2012 primary and general elections must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year if they wish to vote from abroad.  States are now required to send out ballots 45 days before an election.  No matter what state you vote in, you can now ask your local election officials to provide your blank ballots to you electronically (by e-mail, Internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  You can now also confirm your registration and ballot delivery on-line.  Be sure to include your e-mail address on the form to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option.  This is the fastest and most reliable way to receive your ballot on time, and we strongly recommend every overseas voter take advantage of it. 

You can learn more about the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and obtain it at the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) website (www.FVAP.gov).  The FPCA is accepted by all local election officials in all U.S. states and territories.  It allows you to register to vote and request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (presidential and state primaries, run-off, special, and the November general elections) during the course of the year.  An online wizard will help you complete the form.  Depending on your state’s voting requirements, you then either send in the FPCA electronically or mail it to your local election officials.  To mail it, print out the completed FPCA and the (U.S.) postage-paid envelope containing the address of your local election officials. 

If you bring in your forms or ballots to the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy, we will mail them for you without your having to pay for international mail.  If it’s easier for you to use the local postal system, be sure to affix sufficient postage and allow sufficient time for international mail delivery.  You may bring your completed FPCA without an appointment to our office for forwarding to your state anytime between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, excluding U.S. and local holidays.  The Consular Section is located at 71 HaYarkon Street, Tel Aviv.

If you bring in your forms or ballots to the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy, please do not submit them in sealed envelopes as all items must be checked for dangerous substances before placing them in Official Mail.  Rest assured your ballot will not be opened or read by anyone.  The envelope will be inspected and sealed in your presence at the Embassy.  Ballots submitted in sealed envelopes could be irreparably damaged during the required security check.

It is important that you submit a new Federal Post Card Application every January to receive all absentee ballots for which you are eligible.  By applying early, you also allow enough time for election officials to contact you and resolve any questions or problems with your registration and ballot request.   

Remember that your vote counts and that many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%.  This year’s general election will be held Tuesday, November 6, and will include the presidential race, 33 seats in the U.S. Senate, as well as all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.  All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it's valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline. 

Be an educated voter.  Check out the FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues.  Non-partisan information about candidates, their voting records, and their positions on issues is widely available and easy to obtain via numerous websites such as Project Smart Voter (www.votesmart.org).  You can also read national and hometown newspapers on-line or search the Internet to locate articles and information.  For information about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP's voting alerts via an email request to Vote@fvap.govFVAP also shares voting alerts via FaceBook (www.facebook.com/DoDFVAPand Twitter(http://twitter.com/FVAP).

If you have any questions about registering to vote overseas, please contact the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv’s Voting Assistance Officer atVoteTelAviv@state.gov


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