How to vote in the next U.S. election while living in Costa Rica

I grew up in a political family (daughter of Joan Finney, 42nd. Governor of Kansas) where the idea of not voting in an election, whether it was for the next dog catcher or the next President, was not only unthinkable, it was downright sinful!  And the fact that I am now a legal resident of another country, hasnít stopped me from wanting to exercise my right to participate in the political process. Thatís right. I still vote in U.S. elections.

Surprised?  In fact, United Statesí citizens, residing outside the U. S., are entitled to vote in federal elections.  Yet many donít, either because they arenít aware of this fact or donít know how the process works.  So, I thought I would share with you information Ė some old, some new Ė about what it takes so you can, as we say in Spanish, Vota o Bota (vote or throw it away).

For U.S. citizens, age 18 years or older, residing outside the U.S., hereís how it works:

  • You can vote to elect federal offices, namely President, Vice-President, and members of Congress (U.S. House and Senate).  Note that a few States allow voting in state and local elections, but youíll need to check your Stateís requirements to be sure.

  • Your ďlegal state of residenceĒ for voting purposes is the U.S. State or territory where you last resided immediately before leaving the United States. This is so, even if you didnít own property there and/or never intend to return.

  • If your state holds a federal primary election, you can vote in that as well as the general election.

  • Starting with the 2010 election, anyone wanting to vote must submit a Federal Post Card Application  (FPCA).

  • Even if youíve been voting since the Earth was dirt and never missed an election, you must submit a new application after January 1 of each election year.

Although staff at any U.S. embassy or consulate can assist with filling out your voter registration form or ballot request, these facilities do not serve as polling stations.  All voting is through absentee ballot.

Once your local (U.S.) election authority receives your FPCA, they will confirm your eligibility and place you on their list to receive your blank absentee ballot. Your ballot will arrive via regular mail as well as electronically. You must then complete your ballot and return it by the receipt deadline.

Don't be worried that your friendly Costa Rican mail carrier wonít find your casa located 50 meters just past the purple dumpster.  Thatís okay. You will still have a chance to vote using an emergency federal write-in ballot.

All the forms and instructions you need are available through the
Federal Voting Assistance Programís
web site at .


Election day is November 6th, so donít wait.
Submit your FPCA now!