Overseas Disenfranchisement
Americans living abroad face unique challenges when trying to vote. Between three and seven million U.S. citizens live abroad--this includes soldiers and their families, students studying at foreign universities, and residents of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Although efforts have been made in recent years to ensure that military voters are able to participate in elections, these efforts often fall short. In some cases, registrations are not processed. In others, absentee ballots arrive late to soldiers, making it difficult to return them by Election Day; sometimes ballots do not arrive at all. 

Unlike military voters, other U.S. citizens living abroad do not receive the same extent of support when registering to vote. Since voter registration is handled individually by each state, an American living abroad must register with an individual state.  In some cases a state will reject the application of an expatriate.  This is typically the case with children of American families living abroad who may be denied the ability to vote when they come of voting age.

American citizens living in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands can be drafted into the military, but they are unable to vote for their commander in chief and are only entitled to elect a non-voting representative to Congress.

For more information about military and overseas voting, visit The Overseas Vote Foundation.


IRV will give military more time to vote

By Mark B. San Souci; Lakewood
Published October 29th 2006 in Tacoma News Tribune
I wholeheartedly agree with The News Tribune’s support (editorial, 10-22) for Amendment 3, the Pierce County charter reform proposal to replace the pick-a-party primary for most county offices with instant runoff voting. But the editorial missed one strong selling point that is particularly important to me as a retired military officer: the voting rights of our military voters overseas.

Those defending our country often don’t have a chance to participate in picking our leaders. With our late primary and the chance for further delays due to contested results, there’s just not enough time for our county administrator to mail out ballots to people overseas and be sure to have them back in time.

The Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program says that there should be at least 45 days between the time ballots are sent to voters and when completed ballots are received at election offices. This year that mailing date should have been on Sept. 23, but that was just four days after our primary and long before primary results were certified and general election ballots printed.

While the state Legislature did pass legislation this past year to move the primary election forward to August, this would be unnecessary with IRV.

South Carolina and Arkansas this year joined Louisiana in having their overseas military voters use an instant runoff ballot when they have such runoffs. By passing Amendment 3, we can at least put this in place for county elections in 2008.