Voting in U.S. Elections as an Expat Abroad ~ Midlife Expat Learning

Portugal continues to be at the top of best-places-to-retire-abroad lists. This got my attention when I retired three years ago as a midlife woman of 59. I was intrigued by the thought of lowering my living expenses, and the possibility of being able to afford to live on the ocean as a single retiree. The month I spent living in Portugal in 2019 convinced me it’s the country for me to move to in retirement. After returning home, I planned to save money and move to Portugal at 65. But when my house sold unexpectedly late last year, I realized I could move this fall, three years ahead of plan. Each month I will share a Midlife Expat Learning post here as I navigate the complex process of immigrating to Portugal.

Living in Portugal won’t be all beaches and wine. OK…yeah…it will be a lot of that. But it will also be important to stay connected with people back home. Now more than ever, that connection includes protecting them by voting in all elections. People living in foreign countries still can vote in U.S. state and national elections as citizens of the United States.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is a program of the U.S. Department of Defense that works to help military members, their eligible family members, and overseas citizens vote from anywhere in the world. According to FVAP, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) protects the voting rights of approximately 3 million U.S. citizens living overseas, as well as members of the military and their eligible family members.


“FVAP suggests making it a goal to register and request your absentee ballot with the FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) by August 1st of every election year. Using the FPCA ensures that your state will send your ballot to you at least 45 days before the election — a protection not guaranteed when using other absentee voting forms. When you use the FPCA, you can also select to have your blank ballot sent to you electronically to speed up the process.”

Federal Voting Assistance Program

Expatriate vs. Ex-patriot

I’ve noticed some confusion about these terms among a certain segment of folks — often those who like to wear flag and “patriot” apparel, but have never actually volunteered to serve their country in the military…or in any capacity. Just to clarify: Expatriate is not ex-patriot — they are two different terms. “Expat” is short for the noun form of the word “expatriate,” which can be used as a verb or an adjective too. When I move to Portugal I will be an expat resident, not an ex-citizen or an ex-supporter of my country’s people. I will continue to show my support by voting in U.S. elections from overseas.

You know what a “country” is? People.
A true “patriot” loves and supports their country’s people. All the people.

Image source: Merriam-Webster

You can choose to live in a foreign country and still love and support your country’s people. You can love and support your country’s people and still be upset by their political failures. Voting in your country’s elections is an act of love and support.

Image source: Merriam-Webster

Sad but true. Casting a ballot is the most important form of protest, whether voting at home or abroad.

Image source: Unknown

“America has a set of (federal) laws on important subjects that do not reflect the views of Americans.” Source: The Economist

Voting in state elections is critical. Expats can vote in U.S. state elections.

Stay Tuned

Moving to another country is a complex process, and information can change quickly without notice. Everyone’s experience can be different. I’m remembering to take it all in stride, stay flexible, prepared, pivot-ready, and positive. Stay tuned. Thank you for reading!

Midlife Expat Learning Posts

February: Residency visa requirements

March: Finding housing in Portugal

April: Taxes & Money in Portugal

May: World Portuguese Language Day

June: Healthcare in Portugal (postponed). See Cutting expenses to move abroad

July: Voting as an expat

August: Visa application timeline and expenses

September: Moving logistics

October: Meeting folks, making friends

November: Food, shopping in Portugal

December: Christmas in Portugal

Solo traveler and soon-to-be expat in Portugal
(2019 photo)

Featured image my own.

The Hot Goddess

Instagram: retired_rewired_inspired

If you enjoyed this please remember to Share, Like, Follow, Comment, Subscribe. (This is my “call to action” I’m supposed to include in every post. Thanks so much for your support!)


    • A lot of Canadian pilots I used to fly with here in Toronto took jobs in Singapore, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other places in early 2000. They moved there and became ex-pats of their originating country. Many of them are back in Canada.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. WOW! I have an expat friend who’s lived in Scotland for 20+ years; not sure she votes. It’s great knowing that you can live in another country as an expat and still vote as an American.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow you are really covered all the bases with this series. Glad you can still vote. Seeing things from the outside can offer a whole different perspective. Those Expat voices of reason will be important.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Staying connected with people back home seems like the hard part of living abroad. Voting in elections will definitely help and voting is more important than ever. It is very interesting to see where Americans live abroad.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for sharing your process and the knowledge gained Natalie. If I move, I may quit voting and following politics as I believe we have a broken and rigged system. I’m surprised by the map of where ex-pats live. I expected more in Central America and Asia.


  5. I find it strange that some folks confuse the meaning of ex-pat. The few ex-pats that I’ve known were some of the most patriotic and supportive of the US. It’s as if by leaving, they’re even more appreciative of the rights and privileges of being a US citizen! Your future sounds exciting, good luck!


  6. I love this. Your point about expat vs ex-pat was brilliant and informative – I hadn’t thought about the distinction. Love that you will still be weighing in after you leave because we need all the thoughtful, interested and informed voters we can get!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. First, your pictures are always amazing! You definitely look right at home on the beach! So glad that you are committed to making sure your voice as a U.S. citizen is still counted while living in another country. Your dream is getting closer ….. very exciting! Best Wishes Always! Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This post is very informative. I definitely think it’s important to vote, I’m glad you can still vote whilst living in Portugal. And how awesome how you sold your home 3 years earlier than expected?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A brilliant and informative post, Natalie. And YES, indeed “You can choose to live in a foreign country and still love and support your country’s people.” Thank goodness for a chance to vote…


  10. Something I hadn’t thought of, and I am glad you brought it up as I won’t be in the states in November. I am dipping my toes into going abroad for a bit, just that is very scary for me. So glad to read about another retired woman traveling solo and getting it to work. Thank you!


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