Information for Military and Overseas Voters

If you are a member of the military or an overseas civilian voter, you have options for how you register and vote in Pennsylvania.

There are different types of overseas voters.

Different rules, options, and deadlines apply depending on which kind of overseas voter you are. What are the different types of voters covered here?

  1. Voters in the armed services who are stationed abroad;
  2. Individuals registered to vote in Pennsylvania but who reside overseas; and
  3. So-called “federal voters," who live overseas and are not registered to vote in the Commonwealth and, therefore, may only participate in elections for federal offices (President, Vice President, U.S. Senator, and Representative in Congress).

How do I know if I'm an “overseas civilian voter" or a “federal voter"?

The key difference between an overseas civilian voter and a federal voter is whether or not the voter plans to return to live in Pennsylvania. For example, a person studying or working abroad, but who considers Pennsylvania their home and plans to return to Pennsylvania sometime after their academic term or employment ends, is an overseas voter who may register in the Commonwealth. A Pennsylvanian who has left and made their new home in another country is a federal voter.

What are the differences in what federal voters and overseas voters can do?

Overseas civilian voters may register to vote in the Commonwealth and vote in every contest for their election district. Federal voters may not register, but they may request a federal ballot that includes only federal offices (not state ones).

To register to vote, military and civilian overseas voters can:

Federal voters cannot register.

How do I apply for an absentee ballot?

Overseas civilian voters, military voters, and federal voters may vote using an absentee ballot that you get by mail. 

For military voters and overseas civilian voters, your absentee ballot request form must arrive at your county election office before Election Day. This means you must mail your application early enough so it arrives on time. 

Federal voters, military voters, and overseas civilian voters may request an absentee ballot in several ways: 

  • Use any official absentee ballot application form to request an absentee ballot.
  • Request that the state email an absentee ballot application to your email. Send an email from the account where you want to receive the email to
  • Request that the state mail you a paper absentee ballot application. Send an email to
  • Complete and send a Federal Post Card Application form to your County Election Office. The United States Department of Defense distributes this form as Federal Form Number 76.
  • Members of the military may send in a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot form to your County Election Office. The United States Department of Defense distributes this form as Federal Form 186.

For federal voters, your absentee ballot request must be received by your county election office by the Tuesday before Election Day—the same deadline for requesting standard domestic absentee ballots. Federal voters may request a federal ballot in one of two ways:

Only you or an adult member of your immediate family may submit your application for an absentee ballot.​

How can I get my absentee ballot by email?

You can get an absentee ballot by email if you request to do so. To request that your ballot gets sent to you by email, you have several options. You can:

Look for an email telling you that your ballot is ready. Then you can download your ballot from ​

Please note: Due to increased security measures to safeguard the voting process, some users may have trouble accessing the online website. If you experience any issues when retrieving your ballot, please call our Help Desk at 1-866-472-7873 or email for immediate assistance.

If you do not choose to receive an absentee ballot electronically, you will get your ballot in the mail. 

What are the deadlines to vote by absentee ballot?

For military and civilian overseas voters, there are two requirements about when to submit your absentee ballot. 

  • You must affirm that you mailed your ballot no later than 11:59 pm on the day before Election Day. 
  • The County Election Office must receive your ballot no later than 7 days after Election Day by 5 pm.

For federal voters, your ballot must be received by 8pm on Election Day.

Learn more about voting by absentee ballot.

Special Write-In Absentee Ballots

You may receive a special write-in absentee ballot if you are a member of the military, a federal voter, or an overseas civilian voter outside the United States on Election Day. 

Sometimes members of the military or overseas citizens need their ballot before printed absentee ballots are ready. When this happens, Election Officials provide voters with write-in absentee ballots. These special write-in absentee ballots will look different depending on what kind of voter you are.

What's on the special write-in absentee ballot for military and overseas civilian voters? 

The special write-in absentee ballots include all offices and questions on your election district's official ballot. These ballots do not include the names of the candidates for the offices. 

What's on the special write-in absentee ballot for federal voters?

The special write-in absentee ballots for federal voters include all federal offices with election contests in that year.

Election Officials also provide a separate list of the candidates who filed to appear on the applicable ballot. The list does not include any candidate who withdrew or had their names removed from the ballot by a court. 

A special write-in absentee ballot returned to the County Election Office counts the same way as any absentee ballot. 

Using the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB)

Members of the military, federal voters, and overseas civilian voters may use the FWAB to vote for all federal, state and local offices. Your county election office must post a notice on its website with information about the offices and questions on the official ballot for the next election. This must be on the website at least 90 days before the election.

Please contact your county election office for information about the next election.   

Members of the military voters, federal voters, and overseas civilian voters can use the FWAB to both apply for an official absentee ballot and to vote. You may do both at the same time. Your FWAB counts even if your completed official absentee ballot is not received by the deadline.   

Can I vote in person on Election Day?

If you are registered to vote and did not vote by absentee ballot, then you may vote at your assigned polling place on Election Day. 

Federal voters and members of the military who are not registered to vote may apply in person and vote at the County Election Office.

What is the Federal Voting Assistance Program?

The Federal Voting Assistance Program guides you through the process to vote if you will be out of the country.  

If you have questions about registering or voting in Pennsylvania as a member of the military or overseas citizen, email