Published Friday, October 2, 2020

Is it too late to Vote?

By Steve Johnson
Democrats Abroad Costa Rica

For 99% of US expats living in Costa Rica, there is still time to vote. But you must act immediately.

A tsunami of ballots is currently hurdling its way toward local election offices in the United States. This is due to the heightened interest in this year’s presidential election plus the availability of mail-in and absentee ballots in response to the world covid pandemic. According to a study done at the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, as of September 26, 2016, 9,525 early ballots had been received in 25 states. As of the same date, 2020, a mind-boggling 860,000 early ballots had already been received in the same states. Are you sitting down? - that’s an increase of 8,500%. More or less.

As we get closer to election day, the election infrastructure will begin to show signs of stress and in some cases could reach gridlock. Ballots will back up, phone calls will not be answered, email inboxes will clog, fax machines will lock up, and mail will not get delivered in time to meet deadlines. There will not be enough hours in the day nor staff to handle the load. To make matters worse, 20 states still live in the horse-and-buggy days and will only receive ballots via snail-mail. And add to this the sabotage that was done to the USPS last summer by the Postmaster General.

At this time, the biggest alarm bell is Florida – the deadline to register to vote is Oct. 5 and it must be snail-mailed.

But don’t panic – Here’s what to do.

• Go to Vote From Abroad site, click on STATE VOTING GUIDE, then click on your state. There you will see the deadlines for registering to vote, requesting your ballot, and voting in the general election. The page will also indicate the required methods to register/request your ballot and vote. The possibilities will include at least one of the following - mail, email, online upload, or fax. Each state is different.

• Now go back two pages until you are back on the main Vote from Abroad page. Click on START and you can fill in, sign, and return your ballot registration or request form, known as the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA). Request to receive their ballot by email so that it will arrive without delay.

• If you do not receive confirmation of receipt of your ballot request from your local election office within a week, call them to confirm the status of your request.

• If you are required to return your ballot in a hard-copy form, even though up until now we’ve been recommending international mail service or sending ballots via the U.S. embassy, time is growing short and these methods allow little margin for error. For example, what if there is a problem and your election office needs to contact you to clear it up, or what if when you call they say they never received your form, and you have to start over? These things happen more often than you may think. At this late date, your best bet is international courier service such as Fedex or DHL. DHL is currently offering a 20% discount for ballots being returned to the US. To receive the discount, be sure and give the staff at DHL this code: #ahorraus.

• If you do not receive your ballot by Oct. 15, it will be time to reevaluate the situation. You have the option of voting with a back-up ballot, called a FWAB (Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot). This is to be used if you have not received your blank ballot in time to vote. Click on this link , fill it out online, print it, sign and date it, and return it to your local election office via international courier. Please read the FWAB instructions carefully because if it isn't filled out and packaged according to the instructions, it will not be counted. Every vote counts.

Good luck!

Any US citizen eligible to vote can do so no matter where they live in the world. By following the above steps, US citizens living in Costa Rica can make sure their ballots are sent back in time to be counted. If you need more information, specifically about voting from Costa Rica, please email us at

Democrats Abroad is the official organization of the Democratic Party for United States citizens living permanently or temporarily abroad. is a public service provided to those U.S. citizens who wish to vote, regardless of their political affiliation or lack thereof.