Absentee Voting (WI, USA)

Hello Folks!

Seeking one American citizen living south of Stuttgart!

I am a former Wisconsin resident, and I have my ballot for the upcoming election ready to fill out. However, Wisconsin requires me to have an adult US citizen witness me filling out the ballot and sign a certification (and provide his/her address). I have to mail both my ballot and the witness' certification together.

My problem is this: I do not know any Americans living anywhere near me! (I live in a very small town an hour from Stuttgart.) I just got off the phone with the city clerk in my former town in Wisconsin, and she suggested I drive to a consulate. I guess that would be Munich or Frankfurt, which is ridiculous. I'm considering driving to Tübingen this week to see if I can spot an American student who might be willing to witness my ballot.

I have also just contacted my local Ausländeramt to ask if they know of other Americans in the area.

I am not looking for on-going contact - I just need one person to sign this blinking ballot certification after watching me mark my ballot. Is there anyone here in Herrenberg, Tübingen, or somewhere near those towns who would be willing to be my witness?

Thank you, Wisconsin, for making absentee voting almost too much a hassle to be worth it...

You should be able to find Americans at Panzer Kaserne in Boblingen if nothing else.

Thank you! I had no idea there were still American troops in Stuttgart. I think I have found a solution (with another blogger's help). She told me there's an international school in Sindelfingen, and I can get there via train and S-Bahn (Thank goodness, because driving in Germany is way too friggin' scary).

Admins, go ahead and remove this thread, since I am most likely the only Wisconsinite in Germany without American friends in my near vicinity to witness my absentee ballot! :-)

I am an American in Stuttgart. Theoretically I could help you with this but it all sounds strange. This is not how things are usually done!

I just sent in for my Ohio absentee ballot today. One can get all the necessary information about registration, and absentee voting for all States at the site below. I have linked to the under-page for Wisconsin. There is NO mention of  such a requirement, which by the way is not a stated form of Identification. I am putting some of the relevant text here in my post:

Eligibility Requirements (Wisconsin)

Overseas Voter

U.S. citizens living abroad have the right to vote as absentee voters, provided they are eligible to vote in their state.

If you are living outside of the U.S. permanently, indefinitely, or temporarily, your voting rights stay with you, even if you never voted when you lived in the U.S.

To vote from overseas:

- Complete and send an overseas voter registration/ballot request form to your election office in the U.S. This is one specific form that will register you as an overseas voter and request your absentee ballot – simultaneously.
Many states allow children who were born overseas, but never lived in the U.S., to use their U.S. parents’ last residence address to register.

Identification Requirements
Voter Registration

To register to vote in Wisconsin you should provide:

- Your Wisconsin Driver's License or State/non-driver ID Number
If you do not have these IDs, you may provide:

- The Last Four Digits of your Social Security Number
In order to complete your voter registration in Wisconsin, you will need to provide a copy of a valid ID. Accepted IDs include:

- Bank Statement, Paycheck or Government Check
- Valid Driver's License
- Valid issued ID
- Government Issued Document that shows your current name and address
- Valid Employee ID with photo
- ID Card
- Lease (exception: not valid for registration by mail)
- Letter from a homeless organization verifying your residence location for purposes of voter registration
- Utility Bill not older than 90 days
- Property Tax Bill or Receipt dated within the current year or within a year prior to the election date
- Valid Student ID accompanied by on-campus housing listing that denotes US Citizenship
- Valid Student ID accompanied by tuition receipt

Voting Overseas
U.S. citizens living overseas may register and request a ballot using the overseas voter registration/ballot request form. You will have the following identification options when completing the form:

- Last 4 Digits of your Social Security Number
- Option to Indicate that you do not have the Requested ID
- U.S. State or Territory or District Issued ID

The website: … stateId=55

In addition I found the site for the Wisconsin Elections and Ethics Commissions. They also give information bout getting and voting absentee and don't mention anything about another American giving an affidavit. But they don't show an actual copy of an absentee ballot itself. So I cannot say for sure what you are referring on since is sounds like a misunderstanding.

By the way, Herrenberg is connected to Stuttgart by S-Bahn. It takes 38 minutes to get to Stuttgart main station and the trains run every 30 minutes from around  5 am to after midnight - every 15 minutes during the rush hours. And I don't know what should be scary about the German Autobahns. They are excellent and contrary to belief, have few stretches with unlimitied speed limits.

Hi Tom,

Thank you for the information. I don't know what to tell you (I agree it's strange and I have heard of no other states that require a witness for an absentee ballot), but I have my instructions right in front of me, which I printed off with my ballot, and the first point under "What you will need" is "A witness. One adult U.S. Citizen must witness you mark your ballot (but not your choices) and sign and date the certificate). I have the "Official Absentee Ballot Application/Certification" as well, and I confirmed with the city clerk in my former town yesterday by phone that this is required for Wisconsin.

It's not voter id or registration.

I am glad you do not find driving in Germany scary, but I do. I wasn't referring to the Autobahn so much as driving in general. I love everything else about Germany, including things most other [American] expats complain about. But I only drive out of my village if I have no other reasonable choice.

I am adding some things here which may not apply directly to you but unlike your previous contention, you cannot be the only person from Wisconsin living in Germany.

I have searched the internet and find lots of sites giving information about Wisconsin absentee voting. There are people stateside who are in hospitals or nursing homes who cannot get to the polls. They can vote absentee and do so without copying an ID but should have a witness sign. But these are specific Special Voting Deputies assigned to the facilities. For permanent (or indefinite) overseas voters there is no mention of such a thing.

Voting overseas means getting an absentee ballot from your State. From the 2nd website below I find that the normal such ballot is called a FPCA. If one does not get this in time, one can request a FWAB. The FWAB from Wisconsin does have a witness requirement although I have yet to find out the details on this. But as the site states; NO State requires a witness for the FPCA.

Maybe you have directly applied for the FWAB, which is meant as an emergency backup for people who do not get their FPCA in time. Can you get a FPCA absentee ballot once you have already received a FWAB one? I have no idea!

Yet this doesn't make much sense since I also found this on the below site: "You must be registered to vote and have already requested a State absentee ballot in order to use the FWAB".

What I cannot find in the internet is an actual copy of the absentee ballot to see what you refer to. Are you SURE that this witness requirement applies to you and not just people in the States that cannot get to the polls? … _21468.pdf

FAQs: Absentee Voting
Q: Do overseas voters need to submit photo ID?
A: Permanent overseas voters do not have to provide proof of identification and can only vote for federal offices. Temporarily overseas voters are regular absentee voters and have to provide proof of ID.

Witnessing Requirements
No State has witness requirements for the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)
; however, the territory of Puerto Rico does.  A witness may be required if a voter receives assistance when completing the form.

The following States have witnessing requirements for the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB):
•    Alabama (2 witnesses)
•    Alaska (1 witness)
•    Virginia (1 witness)
•    Wisconsin (1 witness)

What is UOCAVA?
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act is commonly referred to as UOCAVA. UOCAVA citizens are U.S. citizens who are active members of the Uniformed Services, the Merchant Marine, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, their eligible family members and other U.S. citizens residing outside the United States. The law provides the legal basis for absentee voting requirements for federal offices.
What is the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)?

The FPCA (federal form SF 76) allows UOCAVA citizens to register to vote and request an absentee ballot. This form is also used to update your contact information.
What is the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)?

The FWAB (federal form SF 186) serves as an emergency backup ballot for UOCAVA citizens. If you do not receive your absentee ballot from your State in time to return it to your election official to participate in the election, use the FWAB.

On the site listed above (Federal Voting Assistance Program) they also have a link to a 590 page Voting Assistance Guide that gives further information:

Hi Tom - I didn't say I'm the only Wisconsinite living in Germany. I said I'm likely the only Wisconsinite in Germany who has no American friends here.  ;-)

Another tip for finding Americans in your area is the D.A.I. Deutsche Amerikanische Institute. It's located about 2 minutes walk from the main train station in Tübingen. They have a library of English books, courses about American politics and culture and English language courses. Many of their teachers are American plus they have a network of contacts to many, if not most, of the Americans in the area.

Another good tip, thanks! I sent them an email on Friday and haven't received a response yet. I'm going somewhere this Friday - either to Tübingen (1st stop DAI, and if they can't help I'll head to the university) or to Sindelfingen or Böblingen.

I received a response from the Ausländeramt in my town today. Unsurprisingly they can't tell me if there are any Americans living in the area because of privacy laws. They suggested I go to or contact the US consulate, but I can't imagine they can give out contact info for Americans living here either.

It's a blinking good thing I didn't wait to start this process until shortly before having to mail the ballot!
Thanks for your time and efforts to help me.

At the US consolate you will find other Americans, one of them can be your witness.  :)

Hi Angelo,

True, but I live nowhere near a consulate. The closest one is 2 hours away (one way). That's why I've been looking for an American in Tübingen or Sindelfingen/Böblingen. At least those towns are less than an hour away. A person should not have to drive four hours (or longer by train) in order to be able to submit a vote. I do realize the main thing causing my problem is that I have not sought contact with my Landsleute since moving here.

So it's my own fault, but it should NOT be this complicated to participate in a US-American election. I did not have this problem 4 years ago. It's a new (2015) Wisconsin law.

Actually most consulate workers are NOT American. It has to do something with equal pay laws and political factors...And it is no coincidence that they made it harder for expats from Wisconsin to vote since Scott Walker is in power. Gerrymandering and voter suppression is how the GOP wins elections.

Oh Tom,

I have been erasing all my comments about Scott Walker before posting my responses here! (For instance, "It is in the Wisconsin governor's best interest that educated people not vote") I kept telling myself not to go off on that...politician. I was a teacher in Wisconsin, albeit at a private school and never a member of the union, but that man is...

Well, I restrain myself once again. Let me just say that it did not surprise me in the least to learn today that what I'm facing is a direct result of his new (2015) voter ID law.

Yeah, one should not get too political here since the site is for all expats. Yet when discussing voting procedures and rights it is hard to ignore the obvious tactics of voter suppression being implemented in many States. Thankfully, many courts are striking such things down but it is sometimes too little, too late. All I can recommend to any overseas voter is to start as early as possible and keep at it until you get to vote. And then hope it actually gets counted. There are so many details or possibilities for something to go wrong that one is naive to think they can wait to the last minute, easily get a ballot and send it off having properly met every requirement.

It's now Friday evening again, and I still have no response from any American citizen near me who is willing to witness my absentee ballot (except, and I stress this - two American blogger acquaintances who live one and two hours from me; I will drive to one or the other if I get nowhere by Monday).

I have contacted by phone or email:
the US consulate in Frankfurt
the German-American Institute in Tübingen
the VHS in my town
the VHS in a nearby town (at the suggestion of my boss)
the Ausländeramt in my town
the International School in Sindelfingen
the language dept at the university in Tübingen

I have just written and sent a letter to my "legislators" in Wisconsin, which I'm sure will end up in the trash before it's read by anyone who might care. A friend and I are going to Tübingen on Monday to see what kind of luck we can scare up, and if that flops, on Tuesday I will take the train to Stuttgart or drive to the Bodensee if one of the two bloggers is available for the two minutes this will take.

I am utterly disgusted (not at all with people who don't respond because my request is weird as hell, but with this new Voter ID law that is preventing me from completing my absentee ballot in a timely and cost-free manner). I know of NO OTHER STATE that requires a U.S. citizen to witness the absentee ballot.

Hi Bhejl
I suggest you to go directly there with all you papers, find an American (in the Consulate there are for sure) and tell (don't ask, tell) to witness you. Specially the employees of the Consulate should help you, they are working there for helping Americans.
ciao, Angelo

I believe the issue has been resolved. I provided an American contact nearby but she found someone else in the meantime.

But for others, I would question your advice Angelo since I already pointed out that few if any Americans actually work in the consulates. One would have to get a special appointment to even try. And the other thing is that the nearest consulates are in Munich and Frankfurt, both hours away from Herrenberg.....

Also, from my experience; American Consulates are often of little help. I've seen Germans, Swiss etc. who were robbed of their valuables get a flight ticket and pocket money etc. to get back home. The American consulate will help you go through the process to get a new passport but not give you money for a hotel or flight home or even see that you get feed unless it is an emergency like having been caught in a terrorist attack or tsunami. And even then one wonders if it is only because of the political spotlight on the situation rather than out of duty or compassion.

Hi folks,

the issue has indeed been resolved. Here's my new advice - bring all the forms and instructions with you, go to a crowded town, enjoy the sights, and listen for someone speaking American. I happened to be in Breisach this weekend and did just that. A total stranger was willing to sign her name and write her complete address on my certificate. I spotted her from a distance, heard her shout to someone, and I approached her. Very nice lady.

That's my advice now - don't bother with institutes, schools, consulates, etc. Just go some place touristy. :-) I went to Tübingen anyway today and heard lots of American English - in cafés and on the street.

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