First and foremost, a thank you to the military voters for your service to our country. To all U.S. citizens overseas, thank you for your interest in your country’s elections while far away. (Federal voting law defines "overseas" as anywhere outside the United States. This includes Canada and Mexico.) Military and overseas voters are welcome to use the regular registration and early voting by mail process available to all voters away from their home county on Election Day. However, there are also special provisions for you.
The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) is a form provided by federal law to permit members of the U.S. armed forces and merchant marines, their dependents, and U.S. citizens abroad to vote early by mail and, if necessary, to temporarily register to vote.
Who is eligible?
You are eligible to vote early with an FPCA if you are qualified to vote in Texas and you are:
We note that having a permanent residence address in Texas is a prerequisite to requesting ballots from Texas. Residence is defined in Section 1.015 of the Texas Election Code (the "Code") as the voter's permanent home to which he or she intends to return after any temporary absence. This definition also implies that you lived at the location at one time and intend to return, so generally, you cannot list a location where you have never been physically present.
If you feel you do have a permanent residence address in Texas that you can claim for voting purposes, you may wish to follow the procedures outlined next to request a ballot by mail. The FPCA combines a request for ballot by mail, and acts as a temporary voter registration. This means that if you file an FPCA, you are treated as a registered voter, whether you are on the permanent registration rolls or not. However, even if you use the FPCA, you would still need to describe a place in Texas you consider your permanent home to which you intend to return. One of the benefits of the FPCA is that if you file the FPCA at least 30 days before election, you are entitled to vote a Federal Write-in Ballot (discussed below), which is a special ballot that is accepted for counting even if you did not receive the official ballot in time. Additionally, FPCA mailing materials are treated as express mail by the U. S. Postal Service at no additional cost. Be sure to provide on the FPCA your residence address and the address to which you want your ballot mailed.
Submitting the application
An FPCA must be submitted to the early voting clerk by mail or common contract carrier.
With the new FPCA form, you will automatically request ballots for all elections that the early voting clerk conducts during the time period encompassing the next two federal elections (approximately 4 years) for which you are eligible to vote. You are encouraged to submit a new FPCA every time you change your mailing address. You no longer have to indicate the specific election in which you want to vote. (IF YOU WISH TO VOTE IN THE ELECTIONS OF MORE THAN ONE AUTHORITY (e.g., city, school district, county, etc.), YOU MUST SUBMIT A SEPARATE FPCA TO EACH AUTHORITY’S EARLY VOTING CLERK.)
Early voting clerk defined
Early voting is conducted by the early voting clerk. Different people can serve as the early voting clerk depending on the type of election being held. The county clerk is the early voting clerk in:
The city secretary is the early voting clerk for an election ordered by an authority of the city.
As a general rule, in all other types of elections, the early voting clerk is appointed by the authority ordering the election (e.g., school districts).
For more information regarding a particular jurisdiction’s early voting clerk, contact the county clerk or elections administrator for elections in that area, or the administrative offices of the political subdivision conducting the election, if known.
Application for full ballot
In order to receive a full ballot, the application must be submitted to the early voting clerk on or before the 30th day before election day. This application must contain the requisite information for registering to vote. Also, an applicant receives a full ballot if the FPCA is submitted after the 30th day and before the 6th day AND the applicant is registered to vote in the county.
Federal ballot only
An applicant receives a federal ballot ONLY if the FPCA is submitted after the 30th day and before the 6th day and the person is NOT permanently registered in the county but the FPCA application contains the requisite information for registering to vote. However, for elections during the remainder of the calendar year, you will be eligible to receive ballots for local, state, and federal offices.
Special write-in ballot
Texas provides a state special write-in ballot if you are unable to cast a ballot on election day or during the regular period of early voting because of a military contingency. You may use this state special write-in ballot to write in the name of an official candidate. To do so, you must submit an FPCA to request this state special write-in ballot indicating in Item 7 of the FPCA that you are requesting a state special write-in ballot. If you apply for a state write-in ballot, you will not be sent an officially-printed ballot, unless the officially-printed ballot is available for mailing at the time your FPCA is received.
You may apply for this state special write-in ballot not earlier than the 180th day before the election. If you submit an FPCA for the entire year and request a state special write-in ballot, the request will be honored for any election held within 180 days of the request. If you wish to receive a state special write-in ballot for an election held outside the 180 days of submission of your FPCA, you must make another request for the state special write-in ballot by sending a second FPCA requesting a state special write-in ballot.
Application with missing information
If an FPCA is missing information required for registration, the early voting clerk must notify the applicant. If the information is supplemented before the deadline, the applicant is entitled to a full ballot. If the missing information is supplemented after the deadline, the applicant is entitled to receive a full ballot for the next election that occurs in the same calendar year and at least 30 days after the date the supplemental information is submitted.
An applicant who wishes to vote in a primary election must state a political party preference to participate in that party's primary and runoff elections.
Counting your ballot
Texas law provides for the counting of certain late ballots. A marked mail ballot that arrives late may be counted if the ballot was cast from outside the United States, was mailed before the polls closed, and the ballot arrives not later than the fifth day after the election. The envelope in which the ballot is returned (known as the carrier envelope) must be properly addressed with postage, sent from an address outside the United States, and bear a cancellation mark from a postal service or a receipt mark from a common or contract carrier before 7:00 p.m. on election day. It will be presumed timely received if there is no post mark or receipt mark but all other requirements are met.
Faxing your ballot
In extreme circumstances, some military voters are eligible to fax their ballot to the early voting clerk. Texas law provides for the electronic transmission of a mail ballot by a military voter, his or her spouse or dependents IF the military voter is casting a ballot from an area in which the voter is eligible to receive hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay or a location that has been designated by the president as a combat zone. (Please note that an electronically-transmitted ballot submitted under these circumstances supersedes any other ballot transmitted to the early voting clerk.)
Temporary versus permanent registration
While an FPCA may be used temporarily to register applicants for the elections for which they are requesting ballots, the FPCA may not be used as an application for permanent voter registration. Therefore, FPCA applicants are encouraged to register to vote by using the regular postage-paid registration application which is available from your county voter registrar or from the Secretary of State’s office. You may continue to use the FPCA, whether or not you are permanently registered, as long as your permanent residence is in Texas.
Voting by overseas citizens
A United States citizen whose most recent domicile was Texas, but whose intent to return to Texas is uncertain, may vote a federal ballot only pursuant to chapter 114 of the Texas Election Code, if they would be eligible for registration as a voter in Texas if a resident and they are not eligible to vote on federal offices in any other state. Voters in this category must use the FPCA application and indicate that they are applying for a federal ballot only. The FPCA must be submitted to the early voting clerk serving the election precinct of the applicant’s most recent domicile in this state. Additionally, the general provisions governing the application for more than one election by a single FPCA also apply to a federal ballot application as described here.
How to obtain an FPCA form
FPCA’s may be obtained by eligible voters from voting assistance officers within their branch of service, from a U.S. consulate or embassy, or from the Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense, Washington, D.C. 20301,