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, or where your parents last lived if you have never lived, 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

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, submit a new Federal Post Card Application to the Department.

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 email and fax 60 to 45 days before Election Day.

If you requested to receive your ballot by email, the Department will email you a link to this portal to access your ballot. You will need to affirm your eligibility and input your house number and ZIP code associated with your residence address in San Francisco, as last registered to vote, and birth date.

You will be presented with voting instructions and your ballot that you can mark using any computer with internet access. After marking your ballot, you will need to print and return it to the Department of Elections.

The portion of the process during which a voter marks selections on the ballot does not at any time interact with any remote server. This ballot marking process takes place solely on the device the voter is using to access the portal.

If you have any difficulty accessing your ballot through this portal, 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. See instructions to completing the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (coming in August).

Returning Your Ballot By Fax

If you are living outside the territorial limits of the United States, 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 "Voting Oath" (PDF)
  2. 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 that your voted ballot—if you send it by fax—cannot be counted unless the Oath of Voter is completed, signed and sent with the ballot. For your ballot to be counted, your signature on the Oath of Voter must compare to the signature in your voter registration record. If your signature changed, submit to the Department a new Federal Post Card application. If you are unable to sign, make your “mark” and have a witness sign next to it.

Note: Military voters stationed in the U.S. and their spouses and dependents may not return their ballots by fax. Those voters must return their ballots by mail or in person.

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 to Return Your Ballot By Mail Using a Department of Elections Postage-Paid Return Envelope

  1. After marking your ballot, place all ballot cards in the return envelope
  2. Sign the envelope. The holes on the return envelopes indicate the edges of the signature section where you can sign.
    Note that for your ballot to be counted, your signature on the envelope must compare to the signature in your voter registration record with the Department of Elections. If your signature changed, submit to the Department a new Federal Post Card application. If you are unable to sign, make your “mark” and have a witness sign it.
  3. Seal the envelope

Instructions to Return Your Ballot By Mail Using Your Own Envelope

  1. After marking your ballot, place all ballot cards in your envelope
  2. Complete and sign the "Voting Oath" (PDF)
  3. Place the “Oath of Voter” in your envelope
    Note that your voted ballot—if you send it in your own envelope—cannot be counted unless the Oath of Voter is completed, signed and sent with the ballot. For your ballot to be counted, your signature on the Oath of Voter must compare to the signature in your voter registration record with the Department of Elections. If your signature changed, submit to the Department a new Federal Post Card application. If you are unable to sign, make your “mark” and have a witness sign it.
  4. Seal the envelope
  5. Add postage to the envelope
  6. Mail the envelope to:
    Department of Elections
    Voter Services Division
    1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
    City Hall, Room 48
    San Francisco, CA 94102, USA

Returning Your Ballot In Person

When returning your ballot in person, follow the same steps as mailing your ballot, but instead of mailing, bring the envelope to the City Hall Voting Center, which is open 29 days before every election. You may also bring the envelope to the drop-off stations located outside City Hall during the four days prior to Election Day or to any California polling place on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you unable to return your ballot, you may authorize anyone to return your ballot by providing the required information on the back of your vote-by-mail return envelope.

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 request a vote-by-mail ballot be sent to their temporary address, including an overseas address, or vote early at the City Hall Voting Center.

You may request a vote-by-mail ballot sent to your temporary address, including 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.

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.