If my state allows it, should I return my voted ballot electronically?

Yes, we highly recommend that you use the option to return your ballot electronically if it is available to you. More than half of all states now allow overseas voters to return their ballots electronically–that is, by Email, Fax or Online Upload.

This option is a huge boon to overseas voters who live in areas where the postal system is unreliable or non-existent or who otherwise may not be able to meet the deadline for returning their ballots by postal mail.

Sending in your ballot electronically is simply a means to return your ballot. This a ballot that you printed out (if you received it electronically) and marked and are now returning as an email attachment, fax or online upload. And you retain a copy of your marked ballot, so there is a paper trail. There is no security concern that a ballot returned as an email attachment, fax or secure online upload will be changed from the voter’s intention.

This is very different from the “electronic voting” about which there has been widely reported security concerns. With electronic voting, voters at in-person polling places submit their vote using a computer system that holds a large cache of votes and which may be vulnerable to inaccuracies as well as the more remote risk of outside manipulation. And if there’s no paper receipt provided, the voter has no way to know that their vote was properly recorded and counted.

Finally, it may actually be safer to send in your ballot electronically than by postal mail as you don’t have to worry that it may get lost or delayed in transit.

  • If your state allows return of voted ballots by Online upload: Your state will have made sure the connection is secure between your computer and the state’s receiving system.

  • If your state allows return of voted ballots by Email or Fax: You will need to sign a waiver of your right to a secret ballot as your ballot will not be sealed when you send in. Your Local Election Official will separate your identifying information from your vote as soon as possible and no one should be able to see how you personally voted, but it will be open when you submit it.

  • If your state only allows return of voted ballots by Fax (not Email): If you don’t have access to a fax machine, there are apps that will convert an email attachment to a fax. Scan in your ballot and any required materials (see your state’s instructions) as an email attachment, then search for “fax app for Android/iPhone.” Follow the instructions to convert your email attachment to a fax transmission.

    Or, you can use the Fax service through the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP.gov). You will need to email your ballot and any required supporting materials (see your state’s instructions) to fax@fvap.gov using the FVAP fax transmission coversheet at: www.fvap.gov/eo/overview/materials/forms (scroll to the bottom of that page). FVAP will then fax your election materials to your Local Election Officials.

    But don’t wait until the last minute when using the FVAP fax service! The service can get overloaded and FVAP does not guarantee that your faxed ballot will be sent on to your Local Election Official by the deadline.