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. 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.
Overseas Americans – estimated at 9 million by the US State department – have had the right to vote in Federal elections since 1975 thanks to grassroots campaigning by citizens and organizations, particularly Democrats Abroad. Since that time, it's become clear that a 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 delivery times can be problematic.
Great strides have been made in recent years. More overseas Americans than ever before who wish to vote are able to do so. Congress passed important legislation both protecting and facilitating overseas citizens' ability to vote. Online registration tools like Vote From Abroad at www.votefromabroad.org have made it even easier to send a yearly request for ballot required by the law.