Voting

Introduction 
Overseas Americans – estimated at 8.7 million – have had the right to vote in federal elections since 1975, thanks to grassroots campaigning for the right to vote by overseas American organizations and individuals, particularly Democrats Abroad. Since that time, it's become clear that the theoretical right to vote does not necessarily translate into an effective reality. Each state has different procedures and deadlines, information distribution is difficult and mail times can be problematic.

Great strides have been made in recent years, however. More overseas Americans than ever before who wish to vote are able to do so. Online registration tools – www.votefromabroad.org, www.fvap.gov, and www.overseasvotefoundation.org – have facilitated voting, and Congress has passed important legislation protecting overseas citizens' ability to vote.

What We are Working on Today
Democrats Abroad continues to stand at the forefront of overseas citizen voter rights activism. We are currently advocating the following voter issues: 

Empowering the Election Assistance Commission

Further History of Legislative advancements
The 2009 Military and Overseas Empowerment Act (MOVE Act) mandated that states send blank ballots, including by electronic means, to voters at least 45 days prior to an election.  This is an incredibly important step in helping to resolve a key problem of overseas American enfranchisement: of those who wished to vote in 2008, but could not, half were unable to vote because they did not receive their ballot in time.[1]  Receiving the ballot in time to vote and return it is perhaps the most important issue with respect to overseas voting. The MOVE Act has been a crucial step forward.

Nearly as important for overseas voting has been the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA).  HAVA mandates that overseas absentee ballots be tabulated separately from domestic absentee ballots, and created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), whose mandate includes overseeing that process.

This separate tabulation is important for several reasons.  One is the impact on individual overseas Americans:  some do not vote because they believe that their vote is not counted and does not count.  They feel disenfranchised.  Ensuring that they can see that their votes count and are counted serves an important role in encouraging overseas Americans to feel included in their country’s political process.

Secondly, the EAC’s tabulation of overseas absentee ballots provides elected officials and candidates with a clearer picture of their overseas American constituents. Nearly 40,000 ballots were voted (of the 60,000 transmitted to voters) in New York, 90,000 in Florida (of the 115,000 ballots transmitted to overseas voters) and over 15,000 in North Carolina (of the 20,000 ballots transmitted). These voters can make the difference - and have made the difference - in close elections.[2]  Having full data enables elected officials to understand this component of their constituency.



[1] Overseas Vote Foundation 2008 Post Election Survey Report: 52% of those who tried but could not vote, were unable to because their ballots were late or did not arrive. 14% of voters did not receive a ballot at all.  https://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/files/OVF_2009_PostElectionSurvey_Report.pdf

[2] Recently votes from abroad have provided the winning margins in the Senate races of Jon Tester, Jim Webb, Mark Begich, Al Franken, as well as Loretta Sanchez and Scott Murphy in the House.