Overseas DisenfranchisementAmericans 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.