As election season approaches, one of the biggest challenges military spouses face is deciding where to vote. After all, every state has different laws.n If you are confused about where to vote, or just need a refresher, we’ve answered some of the most common voter questions to help you this season.
1. Decide where you are a resident
To vote, military spouses must first determine their state of legal residence. This may be tricky. The military spouse’s state of residency can be, and often is, different than the service member’s state of residency. Residency rules are different from state to state. Your state of residence has legal implications. Among other things, it can determine:
- If you pay state income taxes in that state. Depending on the state, you may need to pay state income taxes in the state where you work and your state of residency.
- If you qualify for in-state tuition at colleges.
- What laws are used to handle things like inheritance and divorce.
You can’t randomly pick a state as your residence. You have to live there or do specific things that indicate you want to be a resident there such as:
- Getting a driver’s license
- Paying local taxes
- Registering your car
- Registering to vote is a clear indicator that you seek residency in that state.
2. If you are a legal resident where you now live
Most military spouses are residents of the state where they live, unless they take specific actions to keep from transferring residency to the new state.
If you have gotten a driver’s license in your state, you may have also registered to vote. If you aren’t sure, call the local office of elections and ask.
If you are not listed, you should be able to register through the mail unless there is a looming deadline. The local elections office can help you.
3. If you are a legal resident in one state and live in another
You are probably already registered to vote in that state, but you must request an absentee ballot. Your state will mail you the ballot. You fill it out, and then return it.
Every state has different voting laws and deadlines. For example, some will only accept ballots if they arrive by Election Day. Others honor the postmark. A database of state laws can be found at the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site.
In some states, you can register once to be an absentee voter and your ballot will always be mailed. In other states, you need to make that request once a year or for every election. Know the absentee deadlines. States need time for mailed ballots to arrive at your door and you need time to return them.
4. Be a responsible voter
The presidential election will have millions of votes, but one vote might decide a smaller election. Even from afar, check the news online and seek more information from the League of Women Voters or your local party organizations.
5. If you are overseas
A law called the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act will help you. There is a standard registration form – the Federal Postcard Application Form – that can be sent to states.
Some states will even take this form via fax or e-mail. A step-by-step guide is available at the FVAP Web site and every foreign command should have a voting assistance officer who can help you register.