Democrats Abroad is undertaking urgent efforts to ensure that all overseas voters who participated in this year’s Midterm Elections have their votes counted. The organization conducts extensive outreach to support overseas voting for all US elections and has identified numerous issues based on feedback from voters around the world.
While some voter difficulties are not specific to any particular state, the ongoing races in Georgia and Florida have highlighted issues related to these ballots in particular. These include:
1. Overseas voters from Florida and Georgia, as well as those from states across the country, have reported that their ballot was returned to them or significantly delayed.
Far too many voters abroad are reporting their ballots and other voting material as being returned to them from the US. In many cases, these voters are using the pre-addressed envelope provided by their local election officials.
To date, Democrats Abroad is aware of approximately 40 cases (including 9 in Georgia and even more in Florida) from voters who have brought this to our attention, though it is unclear how many ballots have actually been returned. Many voters postmarked their ballots on or just before election day and are only now finding out their ballot never arrived.
There are also other cases of ballots sitting within USPS for up to ten days.
There is no explanation, nor is there any indication that these ballots ever left the US post office before being returned to their sender. USPS has until now been unable to confirm why these ballots were returned and delayed.
Democrats Abroad is continuing to pursue this issue with the United States Postal Service, US voter protection groups and effected voters.
2. Florida voters abroad are unable to confirm the status of their ballots, leading to concerns that these votes will not be counted.
It is federal law that overseas voters be able to check the status of their ballots online, in accordance with the MOVE Act**. This has not happened.
Of the more than 500 Florida overseas voters who reached out to Democrats Abroad immediately after Election Day, less than half have been able to confirm that their ballots arrived at their local elections office.
Most often, voters found no information about whether their ballot had been received or tabulated, though some assumed the ballot was still in transit, raising concerns over the noted delays/returns by USPS.
In other cases, voters reported finding information they knew to be false. For instance, Florida voters abroad can fax or mail their completed ballots to their local elections office, but multiple voters who received a confirmation fax that the ballot was delivered discovered that the elections website and elections officials had no record of this.
Further issues raised included being removed from the Florida database after receiving a 2018 ballot, and signature issues. Voters also said they had attempted to follow up multiple times with their local elections officials and had not received a response.
The problems and inaccuracies these voters face have led many to be concerned that their ballots are not being counted. This has been exacerbated by news stories from leaders, including claims by the president, that ballots arriving after election day should not be counted, as well as the fact that the Florida recounts will be completed before the Nov 16 deadline for overseas ballots to arrive in Florida.
The Florida Democratic Party has confirmed, however, that ballots that arrived up until election day would be included in the recount, and those that arrived between the 7th and the 16th would be added at the end of the week.
“There are potentially tens of thousands of overseas ballots that could arrive in Florida by Nov 16, and it’s federal law that these ballots be counted in order for an election to be certified,” explained Democrats Abroad International Chair, Julia Bryan. “Democrats Abroad is fighting to make sure that we’re upholding not just our democratic principles, but also our democratic practices. These Americans have every right for their vote to be counted, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that happens.”
3. Concerns of Georgia votes from abroad not being counted and/or voters are not able to access their ballot status.
While in office as Secretary of State and in the days since he’s stepped down, Brian Kemp has used every trick in the book to chip away at votes that may lean in Abram’s favor.
Abrams thinks every vote should be counted, and Democrats Abroad agrees That includes overseas absentee ballots, which had until Friday Nov 9 to arrive in Georgia.
Of the Georgia voters overseas who provided initial feedback to Democrats Abroad, less than half have been able to confirm that their ballot was received AND/OR accepted without issue.
At the time of our outreach, more than 20% of GA voters who were able to submit a ballot within this year’s deadlines were still waiting to hear if their ballot had been received or accepted. At least one county turned off their online access to ballot status on the weekend prior to elections - when many voters are checking to ensure their ballot has arrived or are making urgent plans to ensure they can return their ballot. This once again is in violation to the MOVE Act.
One in 10 of the voters we heard from also had significant challenges with their voting status, ranging from issues related to voter data not matching with records, voters who had been registered and received a ballot only to find that they were removed from the Georgia online database, significant delays in voters receiving their requested ballots, and online ballot status not matching with the information provided by phone from local election officials.
For more information about this important issue, or to share your experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
** “As amended by the MOVE Act, UOCAVA now requires state officials to… allow UOCAVA voters to track the receipt of their absentee ballots through a free access system.” https://www.justice.gov/crt/uniformed-and-overseas-citizens-absentee-voting-act