What If Your Absentee Ballot Doesn't Arrive? You Have A Few Backup Options
Our long national nightmare is almost over. Tuesday is election day, and unless something catastrophic happens (think Florida in 2000), we'll be able to put this awful cycle behind us as soon as we wake up on Wednesday. If you haven't already voted, this is your last chance — but what do you do if your absentee ballot hasn't arrived by Election Day? This happens from time to time, and it's concerning for obvious reasons. If you're planning on voting absentee but your ballot hasn't arrived by election day, you have a few options.
If you still live in the same state in which you're registered to vote, you may be able to cast a provisional ballot at your polling place. Different states have different rules regarding provisional ballots, but the process is usually quite simple: Show up at your polling place, get a provisional ballot, and vote just as you normally would. Depending on which state you live in, you may have to go to the polling place in the precinct in which you're registered. Here's a list of provisional ballot laws by state.
But what if you don't live anywhere near your polling place? What if you're not even in the country?
If you live overseas and you haven't received an absentee ballot, you have the option of filling out something called a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. It's essentially a generic ballot with no candidate names or ballot propositions on it — you have to write-in all of these details yourself. You can download it for free here, and after you're done filling it out, follow the mailing instructions on the first page of the ballot instructions.
This leaves one last hypothetical — one for which, unfortunately, there is no obvious solution. If you are still in the continental United States, but not your home state, and haven't received your absentee ballot, there's no clear protocol for casting your vote. Your best bet would be to fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot linked to above; however, The Federal Voting Assistance Program has a frequently asked questions page that's vague on whether or not these ballots will be counted if they're from in-country, out-of-state voters. But it can't hurt to fill it out if it's your only option on Election Day.
Last but not least, for general voting questions, your state's Secretary of State office is always a good resource. Here are the phone numbers for each state's Secretary of State.
Hopefully, there aren't too many Americans whose absentee ballots didn't arrive on time. But if you find yourself in this situation, you do have some backup options.