The election year has begun, and now is the time to apply for your absentee ballots for the primary, general, and special elections that will be held this year.
If you are on active duty in one of our nation’s eight uniformed services1, or if you are the spouse or dependent of an active-duty service member, 18 years or older and a U.S. citizen, you are eligible to vote in all U.S. elections in your voting jurisdiction.
Your right to vote if you are absent from your voting jurisdiction/domicile
Active duty service members and their eligible spouses and dependents who are “absent” or away from their voting residence address (domicile*) are eligible to vote under the protections of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). You may vote by absentee ballot for general, special, primary, and runoff elections for federal offices.
IMPORTANT: You do not have to be away from the United States, and you do not even have to be away from your domicile state. It is only necessary that you are absent, because of your service, from the place of your domicile*.
* How to determine your domicile for the purposes of voting
Your domicile address is your address for the purposes of voting (Voting Address). Your Voting Address determines your voting jurisdiction and where your ballot will be counted.
Generally speaking, if you are on active duty, your domicile is the place where you lived and had your domicile immediately before you entered active duty.
If, pursuant to your military assignment, you established a new domicile at the place where you physically reside, it would then become your new domicile.
Here is a fictitious example:
Josephine Smith graduated from Arlington High School in 2018 and enlisted in the Navy. She is still on active duty, and her domicile is still the house in Arlington where she was living just before she entered active duty in 2018. That was her parents' house, and she lived there until she enlisted.
Josephine is currently serving in the Navy in Norfolk, VA, 200 miles away from her family home in Arlington. She is eligible to vote by absentee ballot in Arlington, under the protections of UOCAVA.
Josephine's voting residence address/domicile is that Arlington house, unless she has established a new domicile at some other place while she has been on active duty over the last 6 years. It does not matter that her father died and her mother moved to Florida. Nor that that her mother sold the house and an unrelated family lives there now. It does not even matter that the house was torn down in 2022 to build a new shopping center. It is still Josephine’s voting address/domicile.
Your domicile (Voting Address) is not a “choice”
Your domicile is determined by law. You cannot choose to vote in a different state based on its favorable tax policy, nor can you choose a state based on the perception that it is “in play”—ie. that the election in that state is remarkably close and your vote might determine the outcome.
Tax implications of your domicile
The Reserve Officers Association recommends that you see Law Review articles for further information regarding the domicile of active-duty service members and how that determination affects your tax obligations to the state where you physically reside. If you are uncertain about your domicile, make an appointment to meet with a military legal assistance attorney, and bring a copy of corresponding Law Review with you.
How to vote - steps involved in the military absentee voting process
Please see our step-by-step guide how to vote by absentee ballot under the protections of UOCAVA.
U.S. Vote Foundation is a nonpartisan, non-governmental, nonprofit public charity. The foundation welcomes uniformed services members, their spouses and dependents to use their full range of voter services. Please consult the Overseas Voting Tools and Services page listing. Note that the overseas and military voting process are essentially the same. References to “overseas voting” include absent military voters by default.
U.S. Vote Foundation's voter services will help you register and request your absentee ballot, find election dates and deadlines, election office contact information, and get answers to your questions about voting.
Voting for state and local offices
Military voters stationed in their voting jurisdiction have the right to vote in elections at all levels—local, state, and federal.
Military voters stationed away from their voting jurisdiction have the right to vote by absentee ballot for federal office candidates in U.S. primary and general elections.
Many states also extend full ballots, including state and local office candidates and referendums, to military voters who vote under UOCAVA.
The eight uniformed services include the armed forces (the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the newly created Space Force) as well as the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. See 10 U.S.C. §§ 101(a)(4) and 101(a)(5).