Mail-in Voting by Military Voters and Voters who Reside Outside the U.S.
Important Note: A recent change in the law requires the State Board of Elections and each local board of elections to refer to absentee ballts as "mail-in ballots" and absentee voting as "mail-in voting." Please note that this change in terminology does NOT change the process of mail-in voting.
Under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, military voters and voters who reside outside the U.S. can vote a mail-in ballot.
I am a military voter or I live outside the U.S. and am registered to vote in Maryland. How do I get a ballot?
There are two ways you can get a mail-in ballot.
- You can request one online. To get a ballot this way, you must have a Maryland driver’s license, MVA ID card, or Social Security number. There is a field where you can select that you are a military voter, spouse or dependent of a military voter, or voter who resides outside the U.S. Please look for this field and select the answer that best describes you.
- You can request one by mail, fax or email. Complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and send it to the local board of elections where you last resided in Maryland.
If you are not registered to vote in Maryland, find out how to register to vote.
What is the deadline to ask for a ballot?
For the 2020 General Election, your request must be received (not just mailed) by Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
If you miss the deadline and want to vote a mail-in ballot, you or your agent must apply in person at your local board of elections. For more information about someone else picking up your ballot, go to the next question below.
If your request for a ballot is rejected, your local election official will tell you why it was rejected.
Note: Maryland does not have a permanent mail-in list. If you want to vote by mail-in ballot, you must apply for a mail-in ballot each election year.
Can someone else pick up my ballot?
Yes. You can designate someone to be your agent. This person will take your completed mail-in ballot application to your local board of elections, pick up your ballot, and deliver it to you. To get your ballot this way, you and your agent must complete the Mail-In Ballot: Designation of Agent Form (Papeleta de Votante Ausente: Formulario para Designar un Representante). This form can also be obtained from your local board of elections.
IMPORTANT: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the State Board of Elections and many local board offices are currently closed to the public. As a result, an in-person request for a mail-in ballot may NOT be available, or available by appointment only. Please check with your local board of elections office before making an in-person request for a mail-in ballot.
How will I receive my mail-in ballot?
You choose how you want to receive your mail-in ballot. We can mail or fax your ballot or you can download your ballot from the State’s website.
If you use the online system to request a ballot, you pick how you want to receive your ballot. On the FPCA, you check the box next to your preferred delivery method. If you want to download your ballot, make sure you clearly provide your email address.
Ballots are sent or are available for download at least 45 days before an election. If you want to download your ballot, the State Board of Elections will send you an email when your ballot is available. The email will include a link where you can print your mail-in ballot and instructions.
How do I know if my request for a ballot was received and processed?
Visit the voter look-up website to verify if your local board of elections has received your request for ballot request and the status of your mail-in ballot. If you have more questions, please contact your local board of elections.
How do I vote my mail-in ballot?
There are instructions with your ballot. Please review the instructions carefully before starting to vote.
If you download your ballot from the State’s website, you can print the blank ballot and mark your ballot by hand.
If you received your ballot by mail or fax, you need a black pen to vote. Review your ballot before voting as your ballot may be multiple pages. Carefully fill in the oval to the left of your choice, and do not vote for more candidates than the number specified in the contest heading. If you wish, you may vote for fewer candidates than specified.
Do not sign your name or make any other mark on your ballot.
Write-in voting is only allowed in general elections. A general election ballot has spaces for write-in votes. To cast a write-in vote by hand, fill in the oval to the left of the space for the write-in vote, and write the first and last names of the person in the appropriate space.
You must mail or hand deliver your mail-in ballot to your local board of elections or a voting location. You cannot email or fax your voted mail-in ballot.
How do I return my voted ballot?
You must mail or hand deliver your voted ballot to your local board of elections a ballot drop off box (PDF) (EXCEL), an early voting center, or an election day vote center (PDF) (EXCEL). You cannot submit your voted ballot online or return it by email or fax.
If you mail your ballot, the envelope must be postmarked on or before November 3, 2020.
Your local board of elections must receive your ballot by 10 am on November 13, 2020.:
Important Note: If you mail your ballot via a foreign mail system, you must affix the proper postage to get the ballot into the U.S. postal system. If you mail your ballot from a military post office (APO/FPO) or U.S. embassy or consulate, postage is not required.
If you hand deliver your ballot, you must deliver it to a voting location when it is open or you must deliver it to your local board of elections by 8 pm on election day.
Why does my ballot have only federal offices?
Some voters who reside outside the U.S. can vote for all federal*, state and local offices, while others can only vote for federal offices. You can vote for all federal, state, and local offices if you are a military voter or if you are a U.S. citizen, reside outside of the U.S., and are a:
- Civilian employee of the U.S. Government serving outside of the United States and its territories or a spouse or dependent of this individual
- Member of the American Red Cross, Society of Friends, or USO serving with the Armed Forces outside of the United States or a spouse or dependent of this individual
If you are a U.S. citizen and reside outside of the U.S., the offices you can vote for depend on whether you plan to live in the U.S. in the future. If you plan to live in the U.S. – even if you do not know when that might be, you can vote for all federal, state, and local offices. If you don’t plan to live in the U.S. again, you can vote for all federal offices.
* Federal offices are President/Vice-President, U.S. Senate, Representatives to the U.S. Congress, and delegates to the national conventions (primary elections only).
What if I don't get my mail-in ballot in time to meet the mailing deadline?
The Federal Write-in Ballot is available if you:
- Are a military voter or a voter who lives outside of the U.S.;
- Submitted your request for a mail-in ballot by the appropriate deadline; and
- Have not received the requested regular mail-in ballot.
You can obtain the Federal Write-In Ballot from:
If you are eligible to vote for State and local contests, Maryland allows you to vote for these contests on the Federal Write-In Ballot. Please use the list of State candidates and local candidates and ballot questions to assist you with completing the Federal Write-In Ballot.
Can I have help voting?
Yes, if you have a disability or are unable to read or write, you may have help requesting a mail-in ballot and voting. Any person can help you except:
- A candidate on your ballot;
- Your employer or an agent of your employer; or
- An officer or agent of your union.
If you need help asking for a ballot, use Maryland’s online request system (link to OLVR) or complete the paper mail-in ballot application. For the paper application, the person can help you with Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the application and must complete Part 4. If you cannot sign the application, the person helping you should print your name in Part 3 and write his or her initials after your name.
If you need help voting your ballot, the person helping you must mark the ballot according to your wishes and cannot make an effort to influence your vote. The person helping you must complete the Certification of Person Assisting Mail-in Voter (provided with your mail-in ballot). This certification must be returned with your voted ballot.