Military and Overseas Voting

Two U.S. passports displayed on a world map


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 parent/legal guardian 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 or call (415) 554-4375.

Register with Military or Overseas Status


Military or Overseas Voter Qualifications

You qualify to register to vote 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, or
  • A spouse or dependent of a person described above, or
  • A United States citizen living outside of the territorial limits of the United States.

Check Your Military or Overseas Voting Status

To confirm whether you are already registered as a Military or Overseas voter, use the Voter Portal, call (415) 554-4375, or email

Register as a Military or Overseas Voter

You may apply to become a Military or Overseas voter by completing one of the following:

When registering as a Military or Overseas voter, you must provide a valid residential address in San Francisco, indicating where you last lived, or, if you have never lived in San Francisco, an address where your parents/guardians last lived. The Department will use that information to assign you to a voting precinct. In addition, provide a complete address where you are currently stationed or living overseas.

Update Your Information

To update information in your voter registration record, such as your contact information or ballot delivery method, submit a Registration Update Form to the Department, or re-register to vote.

If you no longer meet Military or Overseas voter qualifications, you can remove this status by re-registering to vote using the California Secretary of State's Online Registration Application.

Receiving Your Ballot

Military and Overseas voters can choose to receive a ballot via email, fax, or postal mail.

By law, the Department may begin sending ballots to military and overseas voters via their selected method of delivery 60 days before the election and must complete such deliveries no later than 45 days before the election. If you register as a Military or Overseas Voter after this time period, please allow the Department three to five days to process your request and send your ballot.

Use the Voter Portal to check the ballot delivery method in your registration record, and to track your ballot as it moves through the process.

Accessible Vote-by-Mail System

All including Military and Overseas voters may access a ballot using the Accessible Vote-by-Mail (AVBM) system.

The AVBM system allows voters to mark a screen readable vote-by-mail ballot. For security reasons, the AVBM system does not store or transmit votes over the internet. After marking an AVBM ballot, a voter must download, print, and return the ballot to the Department of Elections.

The AVBM system will be open to Military and Overseas voters, beginning 60 to 45 days before Election Day, and remain open through 8 p.m. on Election Day.

For more information, visit the Accessible Vote-by-Mail System page. If you have any difficulty accessing your ballot, contact the Department by emailing or calling (415) 554-4375 for assistance.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program also provides a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (PDF) (FWAB) to serve as a backup ballot. You may use FWAB if there isn’t enough time to receive and send back your ballot before the election.

Returning Your Ballot By Mail or In Person

You can return your ballot by mail or in person or authorize someone to return it for you, using Method A or Method B below.

Regardless of the return method you choose, to be counted, you must return your ballot on time! Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked before or on Election Day. Ballots returned in person must be dropped off no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Method A. Return your ballot using the official ballot return envelope enclosed with the vote-by-mail packet you received in the mail:

  1. Place your ballot cards or ballot printout from the AVBM system into your official ballot return envelope.
  2. Complete the return envelope. You must sign the envelope for your ballot to be counted!
  3. Peel away the self-sealing strip to seal the envelope and return your ballot by mail (postage is required if mailed outside the United States) or in person to any voting center or polling place (for locations and hours see the Ways to Vote page.) You may also authorize another person to drop off your ballot for you.

Method B. Return your ballot using two plain envelopes:

  1. Place your ballot cards or ballot printout from the AVBM system into a plain envelope, then seal the envelope.
  2. Write “Official Ballot – To Be Opened Only by the San Francisco Department of Elections” on the front.
  3. Enclose a Ballot Return Form (PDF), along with your ballot envelope, in a 2nd envelope.
    1. To return your ballot by mail, place a stamp on the outer envelope, and mail it to:
                          San Francisco Department of Elections
                          1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
                          City Hall, Ste. 48
                          San Francisco, CA 94102
    2. To return your ballot in person, visit any voting center or polling place. You may also authorize another person to drop off your ballot for you.

Returning Your Ballot By Fax

If you are living outside the territorial limits of the United States, or have been called for military service within the United States fewer than eight days prior to Election Day or on Election day, you may return your ballot by fax.

To be counted, your faxed ballots must be received by the Department of Elections 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 two items, arranged in this order, in a single fax transmission to: (415)-554-4372.

  1. Completed and signed "Voter Oath for Fax Ballot Return" (PDF)
  2. Ballot printout from the Accessible Vote-by-Mail System, or if you marked your ballot by hand, all sides of your ballot cards, in a faxable size (8.5 x 11 inches or similar). You may photocopy your ballot to reduce the size.

Note that your voted ballot—if you send it by fax—cannot be counted unless the Voter Oath is completed, signed and transmitted with the ballot. Your signature on the Voter Oath must compare to the signature in your voter registration record. If your signature changed, submit a new Federal Post Card application. If you are unable to sign, make your “mark” and have a witness sign next to it.

Tracking Your Ballot

You can track the status of your ballot, as it moves through printing, assembly, delivery, and counting by visiting the Voter Portal or calling (415) 554-4375 or toll-free (866) 325-9163.

You can also sign up to receive automatic notifications on the status or your ballot via email, SMS (text), or voice message at