How to Vote in Your Home Country’s Elections From Japan

ByJason Gatewood
Jul 30, 2020

How to Vote in Your Home Country’s Elections From Japan

Living overseas as an expat is usually synonymous with gaining individual freedoms socially and mentally that may otherwise not exist in one’s home country. For example, because Japan is a compact mountainous island country, I revel in the fact that I can go to the beach one weekend because it’s a 30-minute drive in one direction, and the next weekend drive the other way 30 minutes to visit a mountainside hot spring. I certainly couldn’t do that from my hometown in the US, where the beaches and mountains take at least a day by car. But there has been a trade made in this new “freedom”— the ability to participate in the shaping of society in the civic sense. While you can never choose the mayor, town councilman, or school superintendent here because you’re not a Japanese citizen, you can always still participate in your home nation’s elections.

Absent and accounted for

Most nations guarantee some sort of process for their citizens living abroad to participate in elections. For some countries, it means having to go to the embassy or consulate office with a passport and voting directly there on a ballot machine. For others, it can be as easy as registering online via the web or a smartphone app and having the ballot sent to you to fill out and mail back or even all online through an app.

United States citizens can vote absentee by using the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which guarantees the right to vote remotely should you find yourself outside of your home state, district, or territories. This act is for federal elections only; however, most states allow their elections to be covered under UOCAVA as well. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) provides voter registration resources to members of the military and federal government as well as all private citizens residing and working overseas. You may go on their website and request a ballot for most elections that take place in your permanent residence’s jurisdiction.

2020: The Mother of All Elections

Due to the current state of… everything going on in the world at the present moment, it would behoove yourself to get those ballot requests in as early as possible. To that extent, the US Embassy in Japan is making a special allowance to let all citizens residing here in Japan send their voting materials to the embassy with Japanese postage, where they will forward it on to the US in a timely manner. Please read their statement for details and instructions.

Other Areas


Government of Canada: Living Abroad Elections FAQ

United Kingdom

Government of the UK: Voting Abroad


Australian Elections Commission: How to vote while overseas


Image “Ballot Box” by Element5 Digital via Unsplash

About the author

Jason Gatewood editor

Our Tokyo based collaborator is a tech nerd, Japanophile, train nut, and a veritable fountain of information on Japan. His current goal is to watch Evangelion and actually "get it", sing every permutation of "Hotel California" at any karaoke gathering, ride every bullet train line, and sample all varieties of ramen throughout Japan. Catch more of his musings at ·