Military and Overseas Voting

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Did you know that U.S. military members, their families, and overseas citizens can exercise their right to vote from anywhere in the world? By registering as a Military or Overseas voter, you can request to receive your ballot and voting materials by email, fax, or mail, and vote for contests in all federal, state, and local elections held in the precinct where you last lived, or where your parents last lived if you have never lived in the U.S.

Here, you will find information and resources for Military and Overseas voters including qualifications, registration information, and instructions for receiving and returning your ballot. For additional assistance, email SFVoteAbroad@sfgov.org or call (415) 554-4375.

Qualifications

You qualify as a Military or Overseas voter if you are eligible to vote in California, absent from the county in which you are eligible to vote, and:

  • A member of the active or reserve components of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard; a Merchant Marine; a member of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps; a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps of the United States; or a member on activated status of the National Guard or state militia
  • A spouse or dependent of a person described above, or
  • A United States citizen living outside of the territorial limits of the United States

Register or Update Your Information

To vote in the next election, register to vote on or before the deadline, which is 15 days before Election Day. When registering as a Military or Overseas voter, please provide a valid residential address in San Francisco, indicating where you last lived in the U.S. or where you parents last lived if you have never lived in the U.S., so the Department can assign you a voting precinct. In addition, provide the complete address where you are currently stationed or living overseas.

Register as a Military or Overseas Voter

Are you already registered to vote in San Francisco? Use the Department’s Ballot Application for Military and Overseas Voters to apply for Military or Overseas status. You may return the application to the Department of Elections by mail, by fax to (415) 554-4372, or as a scanned email attachment to SFVoteAbroad@sfgov.org .

If you are not yet registered to vote in San Francisco, you may apply to become a Military or Overseas voter by completing one of the following:

Update Your Information

To change your ballot delivery method, provide a new mailing address, or update your email address, use the Ballot Application for Military and Overseas Voters.

If you no longer meet qualifications to be a Military or Overseas voter, you can remove this status by re-registering to vote using the  California Secretary of State's Online Registration Application and indicating, “I am a U.S. Citizen residing in California.” For other registration options, visit the Registration Basics page.

Receiving Your Ballot

Military or Overseas voters can choose one of three ballot delivery options: postal mail, email, or fax. To check your ballot delivery method on file and confirm your Military or Overseas status, use the Voter Registration Status Lookup tool.

Receive By Mail

The Department begins mailing ballot packets to Military and Overseas voters 60 to 45 days before Election Day. Your ballot packet will contain ballot cards, voting instructions, and a return envelope.

If you apply for a ballot after this timeframe, please allow the Department of Elections three to five days to process your request and send your ballot.

International mail delivery times vary. For faster delivery, you may change your ballot delivery preference to email or fax.

Receive By Email or Fax

The Department begins sending ballots to Military and Overseas voters by fax and email 60 to 45 days before Election Day. If you apply for an emailed or faxed ballot after this timeframe, please allow the Department of Elections three to five days to process your request and send your ballot.

If you have any difficulty accessing or printing your emailed or faxed ballot, contact the Department of Elections by emailing SFVoteAbroad@sfgov.org or calling (415) 554-4375 for assistance.

Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB)

The  Federal Voting Assistance Program provides a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot to serve as a backup ballot if you do not receive your San Francisco ballot on time. Instructions for marking your votes on the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot will be made available on this page approximately 45 days before an election.

Returning Your Ballot By Fax

If you are living outside the territorial limits of the United States, you may return your ballot by fax. Faxed ballots must be received by the Department no later than 8 p.m. PT on Election Day. Voters may not return ballots by email.

To return your ballot by fax, send the following three items, arranged in this order, in a single fax transmission:

  1. Completed and signed “Oath of Voter” (PDF)
  2. Completed and signed “Military or Overseas Voter Return Envelope” (on the back of the “Oath of Voter”)
  3. All sides of your ballot cards that have marked votes, in a faxable size (8.5 x 11 inches or similar). You may photocopy your ballot to reduce the size

Note: Military voters stationed in the U.S. and their spouses and dependents must return ballots by mail.

Returning Your Ballot By Mail

To be counted, your ballot must be postmarked before or on Election Day and received by the Department of Elections no later than Friday, three days after Election Day. We encourage you to mail your ballot early to allow for any unforeseen events that may delay the timely arrival of your ballot.

Instructions If You Received Your Ballot by Mail

  1. After marking your ballot, remove the receipt stub from the top of each ballot card
  2. Place all ballot cards in the return envelope
  3. Seal the envelope
  4. Print your name and address in the space provided on the back of the envelope
  5. Sign the declaration in the space provided on the back of the envelope. For your ballot to be counted, your signature on the envelope must compare to the signature on your voter registration form or other correspondence with the Department of Elections

Instructions If You Received Your Ballot by Email or Fax

  1. To return your marked ballot, obtain two envelopes
  2. On the outside of first envelope, write:
    1. “Vote-by-Mail Ballot Enclosed”
    2. Your full name
    3. The San Francisco residential address where you are registered to vote
    4. Your signature
  3. Place your voted ballot inside the first envelope
  4. On the outside of the second envelope, write:
            Department of Elections
            Voter Services Division
            1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
            City Hall, Room 48
            San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
  5. Place the following inside the second envelope:
    1. Completed and signed “Military or Overseas Voter Return Envelope”
    2. The first envelope, sealed and signed with your voted ballot inside

Tracking Your Ballot

Use the Ballot Status Lookup tool to check your ballot delivery method on file and track the status of your Military or Overseas ballot. The tool will also inform you if there are any issues preventing the Department of Elections from counting your ballot.

Special Circumstances

The Department is committed to providing individualized services to all voters. If any of the following circumstances apply to you, read on for more information. For additional assistance, please email SFVoteAbroad@sfgov.org or call (415) 554-4375.

Military voters stationed inside the U.S. but outside San Francisco

If you are a military voter stationed within the territorial limits of the U.S., but outside San Francisco, you are eligible to apply for Military or Overseas status and may request to receive your ballot by email, fax, or mail. To return your ballot, mail it to the Department of Elections or authorize a trusted third-party to return your ballot in-person. You may not return your ballot by fax.

Military voters called to serve outside San Francisco less than seven days before an election

If you are a San Francisco voter called to serve outside San Francisco less than seven days before an election, you may request to receive your ballot by email, fax, or mail, and may return your ballot by fax or mail. If this circumstance applies to you, call the Department of Elections immediately at (415) 554-4375 so we can expedite your request.

San Francisco residents who are traveling

San Francisco residents who will be away on Election Day may vote early at the City Hall Voting Center or request a vote-by-mail ballot to an overseas address.

The City Hall Voting Center opens 29 days before every election, and is available to all San Francisco voters. You may vote in person, take a ballot with you, or authorize someone to pick up your ballot. Visit the Vote at the City Hall Voting Center page to learn more.Alternatively, you may request a vote-by-mail ballot sent to an overseas address using the Vote-by-Mail Application. The deadline to request is seven days before Election Day, but we encourage you to apply earlier to allow ample time to receive and return your ballot. Your ballot must be postmarked before or on Election Day and received by the Department of Elections no later than Friday, three days after Election Day.