2016 Platform Open Comment Period Ended. Thank you!

The five day 2016 Platform Open Comment period has come to an end. Many thanks to the all the DA members who took the time to make submissions of a general or specific nature. We are grateful for your participation and support and are so pleased and proud that this document will have many thousand of overseas Democrat fingerprints on it!

The submissions are being read by a large team of volunteers and considered for inclusion in the draft platform. The final, edited and fact-checked draft will be forwarded to Democrats Abroad leaders on Sunday May 8. The document will be introduced at a pre-convention session of the Democrats Abroad 2016 Global Convention on Thursday 12 May and debated in-session on 15 May. The final draft will be put to a vote and the draft that has been ratified will be posted on the DA Website.

Thank you again for your enthusiastic participation and engagement in this project that is so important to so many Democrats abroad.

Draft 2016 Democrats Abroad Platform


Democrats Abroad is made up of members from the estimated more than eight million United States citizens who live in 160 countries. We cast absentee ballots from every state and territory and the District of Columbia. Some of us reside abroad permanently, while others plan to return after their work, study, overseas adventure or U.S. government assignments are completed. We mirror the great diversity of American society. We pay taxes where we live and also file annual income tax returns in the U.S. and foreign bank account and financial statements with the IRS and U.S. Treasury.

We care deeply about the United States of America.

We care about fairness in tax reporting; in the visa application process; in Social Security; in elections; in keeping families together.

We care about the future of our planet, the future of our children, and the life quality of the elderly.

We care about the 100%.

How America resolves its problems affects all who reside abroad. Solutions to pressing issues, both domestic and international, are found in constructive dialogue. Good solutions are renewable and sustainable. Good solutions are equitable and promote opportunities for all. Good solutions promote peace and security. Good solutions fight corruption.

Our strength as a nation depends on upholding civic values so that we can solve our problems and contribute to a world that offers the benefits of peace and cooperation.

As Democrats Abroad, we stand united to support our President, promote our democratic values and effect the changes described below.

Issues affecting Americans Abroad

Americans living outside the United States face distinctive challenges that should be resolved by the administration and Congress. Democrats Abroad seek constructive solutions to the following:

    • As Americans abroad, we are proud of our citizenship and vigilant in guarding our right to help elect our President and members of Congress. Our right to vote is the primary means available to us to participate in the American democratic process. In close elections our absentee votes from abroad can make the difference between victory and defeat.

      Our votes from abroad were greater than the margin of difference in each of the following elections:
          9329 votes - Senator Jim Webb - Virginia - 2006
          3724 votes - Senator Mark Begich - Alaska - 2008
          3562 votes - Senator John Tester - Montana - 2006
          2311 votes - Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy - Ohio 15th - 2008
          1518 votes - Rep. Patrick Murphy - Pennsylvania 8th - 2006
          745 votes - Rep. Tom Perriello - Virginia 5th - 2008
          654 votes - Rep. Mike McIntyre - North Carolina 7th - 2012
          647 votes - Rep. Ben Chandler - Kentucky 6th - 2010
          466 votes - Rep. Scott Murphy - New York 23rd - 2009
          312 votes - Senator Al Franken - Minnesota - 2008

      The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009 (MOVE) successfully addressed many issues raised over the years by Democrats Abroad, including allowing the receipt of ballots by email, eliminating the necessity of notarization to vote in Federal elections, and allowing the use of Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWAB) in primary elections. One key element of the MOVE Act, requires state and local election officials to report the number of votes received from overseas. This has not been implemented by many states. It is important that we have accurate number of overseas voters in order to ensure that the voices on important issues relevant to them are heard. We:

      CALL on the Secretaries of State of the fifty states and election officials to implement this provision of the MOVE Act so that an accurate count of overseas votes received and counted in their jurisdictions in the 2012 and subsequent elections is documented.

      SUPPORT an amendment to the MOVE Act to require election officials at the beginning of each federal election year to mail to citizens who reside abroad and who have voted in the previous election documents that enable them to re-register by mail because many citizens lack computer skills or computer access to register via the internet.

      CALL on the following states to pass the Uniform Law Commission’s model statute known as the Military and Overseas Voters Act, which will simplify absentee voting for U.S. military and overseas civilians by making the process more uniform, convenient, secure and efficient and, importantly, enfranchise U.S. citizens born overseas who have reached voting age without having resided in the U.S.: Alabama, Alaska,Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.

    • The U.S. State Department estimates that 8.7 million Americas currently live abroad, excluding government personnel. This figure grows nearly 10% annually, as globalization trends increase. As a point of comparison, overseas Americans as a hypothetical state would currently rank 12th in size.

      Americans vote from abroad via their respective state's absentee ballots, and are thus represented within Congress as individuals. However there is little recognition of overseas Americans as a constituency group with unique and pressing concerns in areas such as double taxation. In 2007, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney took  steps to address this by establishing the Americans Abroad Caucus,  which today numbers 25 out of a possible 435 House members. She further introduced HR3078, a Bill to establish a commission to undertake an in-depth study of those issues and report its findings to the administration and Congress. The Bill is now in its third iteration, and while it has been referred to seven House Committees, no concrete action has resulted. Therefore, we:

      URGE members of Congress to recognize and prioritize overseas Americans as an important constituency by joining the Americans Abroad Caucus and becoming active co-sponsors of legislation crucial to us.

      URGE the Senate to establish a Special Committee on Overseas Americans that would represent our constituency within their chamber, and further move for a Senate Bill parallel to HR3078.

    • The right for Americans abroad to transmit their citizenship to their children born abroad is severely restricted. The periods of U.S. residency prior to the birth of a child abroad required to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child are different for an unwed American mother, an unwed American father, and an American parent married to a non-American. Many Americans abroad do not learn of the requirements of the law until it is too late. As a result, each year several thousand children of Americans abroad are denied U.S. citizenship, and some are born "stateless," that is, without any nationality or citizenship. We:

      FAVOR legislation enabling every American parent to transmit U.S. citizenship to his or her children born abroad without any prior U.S. residency requirement.

      FAVOR making the above change retroactive to include children under the age of 18 who were born abroad to a U.S.-citizen parent.

      FAVOR a provision in such legislation guaranteeing that no child born abroad of a U.S. citizen parent will ever again be stateless at birth.

      FAVOR restoring U.S. citizenship to persons born abroad who lost it by failing to meet residency requirements in a section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that was repealed in 1978.

      URGE the recognition of the 14th Amendment’s provision of birthright citizenship and designation as “natural born citizens” for all persons born in U.S. territories, including American Samoa.

    • Several important laws and regulations relating to U.S. Social Security either unconsciously discriminate against Americans abroad or are inequitable. Americans abroad can be subjected to higher taxes than their compatriots who reside in the U.S. for services they are not allowed to access.  For example current health care legislation does not allow eligible Americans abroad to receive health care outside the U.S., even those who have contributed to Social Security throughout their working lives and have thus earned the right to receive Medicare benefits. This denial of benefits is not only unfair but can cause real hardship for individuals and unnecessarily high costs for the U.S. federal government. We:

      OPPOSE the attempts of state governors, corporate-funded lobbyists, and doctrinaire legislators to halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by drastic measures not in the interest of ordinary Americans.

      FAVOR the extension of provisions of the ACA to allow voluntary access to affordable health care to Americans living abroad.

      FAVOR an amendment to the Medicare law that extends Medicare benefits to all eligible U.S. citizens residing overseas to ensure provision of health care in selected hospitals in their country of residence.

      FAVOR the initiation of a demonstration project to determine the feasibility and cost-savings of providing Medicare benefits to eligible U.S. citizens resident in Mexico.

      FAVOR the amendment of Section 202 (t) of the Social Security Act to permit foreign citizens who are surviving spouses of American citizens and residing in any country, to receive derivative social security benefits in the same manner as any other Surviving Spouse without the requirement of being an American Citizen or living in the U.S.

      FAVOR replacing the much harsher Foreign Work Test, applicable to Americans abroad, with the Annual Earnings Test, so that all Americans are subjected to the same rules regardless of residence.

      FAVOR examination of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) to establish a remedy that preserves the social security benefits fairly earned by Americans abroad through their working life.

      FAVOR elimination of the provision that now cuts off Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) for persons who live outside the United States for more than 30 consecutive days.

      FAVOR elimination of the withholding tax on Social Security for Americans abroad.

      FAVOR negotiation and implementation of totalization agreements with all countries that have social security programs and which no such agreement is in place.

      FAVOR providing easy to access affordable, quality medical care for our veterans living overseas who do not have access to regular VA hospitals.

    • A long-standing system of Citizenship-Based Taxation (CBT) requires U.S. citizens to file annual U.S. tax returns in addition to meeting tax requirements in their countries of residence.

      With very few, and extremely limited, exceptions, all other developed nations apply the alternative system of Residence-Based Taxation (RBT) in which individuals are taxed only for goods and services provided in their countries of residence.

      CBT creates unnecessary and unfair costs, stress, and hardship on the estimated 6+ million tax-liable Americans living abroad. The complex tax codes of two separate jurisdictions are only partially, and inadequately, addressed by IRS Section 911 Earned Income Exemption and various foreign tax treaties. Duplicated filing requirements impact all income types, and standards are often more stringent for overseas filers than for their domestic counterparts. Competing tax treatments result in double taxation for certain types of income.

      The adoption of Residence-Based Taxation would recognize the legitimate participation of U.S. citizens in other economies, while not impacting the taxation of their U.S.-sourced income We:

      URGE the Senate Finance Committee and relevant U.S. tax bodies to include an in-depth focus on overseas Americans in the ongoing bi-partisan discussion of U.S. tax code reform.

      URGE the adoption of Residence-Based Taxation on the foreign-sourced income and assets of U.S. citizens who are bona fide residents of a foreign country.

      If such a policy change cannot be adopted immediately, we:

      FAVOR the retention of Section 911 and the implementation of the following changes to reduce existing tax discrimination against Americans abroad:
           • Allow pensions earned from work abroad to qualify as foreign earned income (as was the case prior to 1963).
           • Simplify the calculation of the foreign tax credit by allowing individual taxpayers to group all foreign income together.
           • Require Americans abroad to pay U.S. income tax only on income derived from U.S. sources.
           • Exempt U.S. citizens living abroad who meet physical presence or residency requirements under section 911 from reporting on and paying the Net Investment Income Tax.

      FAVOR maintaining the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE), merging it with the Foreign Housing Exclusion, and eliminating the ceiling, as Americans residing abroad are required to pay and benefit from paying taxes in their country of residence.

      FAVOR harmonization of provisions in international tax treaties to align them with the United States Model Income Tax Convention of November 15, 2006 as they apply to private pensions, social security benefits, annuities, alimony, child support and pension plans.

      FAVOR optional provisions for submission of a one-sentence, handwritten or printed declaration – accessible from the IRS website and every U.S. embassy and consulate – accompanied by a tax return or tax assessment from the country of residence for Americans abroad who owe no U.S. federal or state income tax.  

      FAVOR implementation of a simplified reporting structure for non-U.S. non-qualified pension plans that would alleviate the need for Form 3520 filings for non-employer funded pension schemes.

      FAVOR reinstating the marital deduction for bequests to foreign spouses of American citizens, which was eliminated in 1988.

      FAVOR taxation of foreign government invalidity, unemployment and social welfare payments to disabled and disadvantaged Americans overseas by only the country of residence making the payments.

      FAVOR elimination of artificial capital gains and losses for tax reporting purposes when no currency has been exchanged by allowing the currency of the country of residence to be the functional currency.

      APPLAUD the introduction of the Streamline Filing Compliance (Offshore) Procedures, a tax amnesty program introduced in June 2014 for Americans who non-willfully are not compliant with their tax filing and reporting obligations, enabling them to file 3 years of back tax returns, 6 years of back Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Reports, meet any outstanding liabilities to the IRS and face no civil or criminal fines or charges.

      SUPPORT the U.S. government’s serious attempts to root out fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.

      CALL FOR the reform of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) through the introduction by the U.S. Treasury and the IRS of a change to the FATCA implementation rules that would exempt from FATCA reporting, by both the U.S. citizen abroad and their financial accounts providers, the financial accounts of overseas resident U.S. citizens in their bona fide country of residence.

      CALL FOR the following reforms to the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FBAR):
           • Redress the enormous, out of proportion penalties – civil and criminal - imposed by the IRS for non-willfully neglecting to file forms;
           • Adjust for inflation the $10,000 aggregate threshold amount that triggers a FBAR filing requirement, which has not been adjusted since the Bank Secrecy Act was enacted in 1970;
           • Eliminate the duplication of information disclosed on the FBAR and FATCA reports;
           • Address the vulnerability of FBAR data security inherent in electronic filing; and
           • Remove the burden imposed on filers who are computer illiterate or with no access to computers by eliminating recently introduced mandatory electronic FBAR reporting.

      SUPPORT recent efforts by the IRS to remedy its poor level of communications with Americans living abroad but CALL for the re-opening of its overseas offices and the restoration of offshore services lost due to cuts in its funding.

    • Americans abroad face undue restrictions in returning, or simply traveling, to the United States with their foreign-citizen spouses, partners and family members. We:

      FAVOR simplifying and expediting procedure for obtaining U.S. permanent residence and citizenship for non-American spouses and close family members of U.S. citizens.

      DEPLORE changes to the I-130 form for obtaining immigrant visas for close relatives, which adversely impact the ability for a U.S. citizen to visit the U.S. with his/her spouse and children, separate currently intact families, and constitute a restriction of the citizen’s right to freedom of movement.

      FAVOR providing all U.S. citizens living abroad with equal immigration opportunities for their immediate families, without regard for the nature of their employer.

      FAVOR providing the immediate family members of U.S. citizens living abroad who are seeking U.S. visitor visas (B-1 and B-2) the maximum visa validity (currently 10 years) irrespective of the reciprocity tables applicable to the family members’ country of residence.

      CALL FOR ceasing the judicial doctrine of Consular Non-Reviewability/Absolutism in visa matters that allow for the virtual limitless exercise of consular discretion.

      APPLAUD President Obama’s November 21, 2014 Presidential Memorandum, “Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century”, the dialogue created with stakeholders, the clear-eyed review of the issues, and other actions to fix our broken immigration system.

      SUPPORT continuing efforts to create fundamental fairness in the visa system.  Specifically, reviewing and implementing changes in visa procedures for visa adjudications at United States consulates and embassies, and at all ports of entry into the U.S. The recommended changes include:
           • permitting in-person assistance of U.S. licensed attorneys and Accredited Representatives at U.S. embassies and consulates and U.S. ports of entry;
           • increased explanation of the factual and legal basis for visa denials and refusals of entry;
           • the standardization and transparency of legal authority, procedure, and guidance in all immigration matters between all agencies involved in the immigration process; and
           • the creation of an administrative appeal and review process in visa and U.S. boarder matters.

      FAVOR expanding Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow the possibility of a Waiver for immigrating close family relatives of U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents that have convictions for controlled substances.  The possibility of a waiver would end the extreme consequences of permanent bar to immigration for family members who have made a mistake or have a medical issue and would equalize the treatment of all criminal convictions.

      CALL for an amnesty program for foreign nationals who are citizens of the United States in name only, with no nexus to the United States other than their birth on U.S. soil or birth abroad to a U.S. parent, to allow them to shed their unwanted U.S. citizenship on a no fees, no penalty and no tax filing or reporting basis

    • The interests and concerns of Americans abroad are rarely considered when American laws and regulations that provide essential governmental services are adopted or changed. We:

      FAVOR consultation by the State Department with the affected local American community abroad before deciding whether or not to close a consulate.

      CALL for notice and public consultation for all Department of State changes of local policy, procedure, rules, and reciprocity schedules effecting American citizens overseas

      FAVOR extending the operating hours of consulates to facilitate their access by Americans seeking to obtain various government services.

      CALL FOR recognizing and affirming American Citizens’ and U.S. Permanent Residents’ right to in-person representation by U.S. licensed attorneys at all U.S. government facilities abroad and U.S. boarder points of entry just as such representation would be allowed if the person was in the U.S.

      FAVOR making all U.S. government facilities abroad barrier-free for those with disabilities.

      FAVOR payment of U.S. unemployment benefits to Americans abroad who would be eligible to receive such benefits if residing in the United States.

      FAVOR legislation requiring the application of all U.S. labor and employment laws to American citizens and "green card" holders working abroad for the U.S. government or its contractors.

      FAVOR full implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act for Americans employed abroad by American companies.

      FAVOR the renegotiation of Status of Forces Agreements that restrict the use of military facilities to those residing within the host country, with a view to permitting military retirees living in other countries to use all facilities allowed by military regulations.

      FAVOR an increase in weight limit on packages that may be sent or received by military retirees abroad through the military postal system.

      CALL FOR these safeguards in the implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transport Act, the highway re-authorization act of 2015, in relation to the provisions that empower the IRS to request that the State Department revoke, or deny the renewal of, the passport of U.S. citizens with a tax debt in excess of $50,000. The taxpayer will receive:
           1. verified notification of the tax debt;
           2. an opportunity to appeal the tax decision prior to any denial or revocation of the passport;
           3. information on his or her rights and the opportunity to remedy the situation prior to the denial or revocation of the passport; and
           4. the State Department will maintain the discretion to deny/revoke the passport in view of the State Department’s in-depth knowledge of potentially dangerous in-country events or circumstances that might arise for the individual U.S. citizen with the revocation or denial of a U.S. passport.

      SUPPORT enactment of legislation to ensure that Americans are not denied their Constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights when they are abroad, especially their right to advice from qualified lawyers, to trials that advance to termination in a timely manner, and to be properly informed of the necessity of complying at all times with visa requirements in foreign countries.

    • Would you like to make a suggestion about an issue affecting Americans aboad that doesn't fit in the above planks? Do so here.

American Foreign and Defense Policy

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Global Good Neighbor policy

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: US State Department

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: International Agreements, Treaties and Obligations

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Debts and Sanctions

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Control of WMDs and Similar Weaponry

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Supporting our Military and Honoring our Veterans

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: The US and the Middle East

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Latin America

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Africa

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Terrorism

American Domestic Issues

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Education, Arts and Sciences

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Managing the Nations Budget

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Maintaining the Nation's Infrastructure

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Ensuring Opportunity for All

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Strengthening Corporate Transparency and Accountability

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Supporting Free and Fair Trade

      • Suggest a plank for Other Economy and Tax Issues

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Healthcare

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Campaign Finance

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Voter Suppression

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Election Integrity

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Good Government

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Lobbyists

      • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Criminal Justice

      • Suggest a plank for other Electoral and Legal System issues

    • Suggest a plank for other American Domestic Issues

Civil and Human Rights

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Women's Issues

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: The Rule of Law at Home and Abroad

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Promoting Equal Rights

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Children and Family Rights

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Human Trafficking

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Refugees, Guest Workers and Undocumented Migrants

    • Suggest a plank for other Civil and Human Rights Issues

Environmental Sustainability

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Climate Change

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Energy Security and Reduced Dependence on Oil

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Public Lands and Marine Reserves

    • The DA Platform Committee is currently drafting a plank for the issue:currently drafting a plank for the issue:: Clean Air, Water and Land

    • Suggest a plank for other Environmental Sustainability issues