How to Vote Using the Backup Ballot (FWAB)

Is there a possibility your official ballot won’t get to you in time to meet the ballot return deadlines?

VOTE NOW using the Backup Ballot–the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)–specifically for overseas voters!

52 USC section 20303


REMINDER: Have you sent in a Ballot Request form (the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)) this calendar year and requested your absentee ballot be sent to you via email? Are you sure?

  • If YES, scroll down to Fill out and Send in Your Back-up Ballot (the FWAB)
  • If NO, click here to go to the main page of to fill out and submit your Ballot Request form (the FPCA). Then come back to this page to Fill out and Send in Your Back-up Ballot (the FWAB)


  1. Go to this website and follow the prompts to Fill Out A Backup Ballot (FWAB)
  2. The website may fill in the candidates for you to choose from. But if it does not, you can type in the candidate’s name or the political party.
  1. Follow the instructions to download the PDF Package containing your completed Backup Ballot and Instructions. You can also download envelope templates if you return your ballot by postal mail.
  2. Print out the completed Backup Ballot and the other documents you downloaded. Then read and carefully follow the instructions to SUBMIT the required materials to your LEO.
If You Are Voting in State Elections: If you are voting in a state election, please follow these instructions. -- Click to expand

When you use the Backup Ballot to vote in state elections (such as Governor or state legislature races), you will indicate your choices on the “Write in Candidates” block.

If you don’t know the candidate’s name, you can write in the political party instead. This is only allowed for General elections, not for Primary elections.


If Your State Requires a Witness Signature: If you vote in Alaska, Alabama, Virginia, or Wisconsin, you must provide a witness signature with your Ballot, which includes a Backup Ballot. (Note: Alabama requires 2 witness signatures.)

Please follow these instructions. – Click to expand

When you print out your Backup Ballot materials, you MUST have a witness sign the “Voter Information” page–use Block 6. (The instructions will not include this requirement.) It should look like this:


Return by Postal Mail: If your state requires you to return your Ballot by postal mail, please follow these instructions carefully. -- Click to expand

(Check here for your state’s requirements.)

Be sure to leave enough time to meet the deadlines and affix sufficient postage for international mail to the US.

Two envelopes are required:

  • a “Ballot Security Envelope”–to hold your completed Backup Ballot, and
  • a “Mailing Envelope”–to send in your sealed Ballot Security Envelope as well as the supporting materials with your identifying information. If you have your original signed Ballot Request form, include it in the outer “Mailing Envelope”.

When the Mailing Envelope reaches the Election Office, they will separate the Ballot Security Envelope from the supporting materials to maintain ballot secrecy.

If you wish, you can follow the instructions to download envelope templates to affix to blank envelopes. OR, you can write or type the information on regular envelopes.

You can mail in your Backup Ballot by regular mail, courier, US military mail, or US diplomatic pouch. You can download a US postage-paid template, but it will only work in US Mail; that is, US military mail or a US diplomatic pouch.

Note: All US citizens abroad may use US military mail to return ballots. For more details, see:


To Return by Fax or Email: The Instructions will indicate if your state will accept the Backup Ballot by Email or Fax. We recommend you do so to ensure it will be received by the deadline. -- Click to expand
  • If your state only allows return by Fax (not Email) and you don’t have access to a fax machine, there are apps that will convert an email attachment to a fax. Scan in your Backup Ballot and any required supporting materials 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 ( You will need to email your Backup Ballot and any required supporting materials to using the FVAP fax transmission coversheet at (scroll to the bottom of that page). FVAP will then fax your election materials to your Local Election Office.


*IMPORTANT: If you receive your official ballot after submitting your Backup Ballot, you may complete and return your official ballot as well.

It’s okay–only one ballot per person will be counted. If both your Backup Ballot and your official ballot arrive before the deadline, federal law provides that only your official ballot will be counted and your Backup Ballot will be discarded.

If you send in your official ballot after submitting a Backup Ballot, although you are not required to do so, you may wish to send an email to your Local Election Office or call to let them know. You can find the contact information at:

52 USC section 20303(d)

If you have questions, please ask our Voter Help Desk (the orange circle on the bottom right of the screen on or email us at