Expat voting easier than ever

In the 2006 midterm elections, Americans living abroad returned only a third of the approximately one million absentee ballots mailed out to them. With roughly six million Americans serving in the military overseas or living abroad eligible to vote, that works out to a pretty dismal 5.5% turnout rate. In this election, expatriate voting rates ...

591716_081104_mehicovote5.jpg
591716_081104_mehicovote5.jpg

In the 2006 midterm elections, Americans living abroad returned only a third of the approximately one million absentee ballots mailed out to them. With roughly six million Americans serving in the military overseas or living abroad eligible to vote, that works out to a pretty dismal 5.5% turnout rate. In this election, expatriate voting rates should be much better -- and not just because of the presidential race at the top of the ballot.

The voting process has always been especially difficult for Americans serving in the military, who are often posted to remote locations and move around a great deal. The military postal service recommends that soldiers mail their completed ballots by Sept. 30 in order for them to be counted, but acknowledges that only 24 states have absentee ballots available by that date. Some states also prohibit methods of delivery other than by the United States Postal Service, or require American witnesses to verify the legitimacy of absentee ballots, which further complicates the process.

This year, however, a joint effort by the nonpartisan Overseas Vote Foundation and Fedex has made voting easier for Americans abroad. The Overseas Vote Foundation showed voters how to order their ballots online -- and Fedex shipped the ballots back to the United States for free, or at drastically reduced rates. Expatriates who ordered an absentee ballot that never arrived also have the option to print and fill out a federal write-in absentee ballot, which allows them to vote only for federal officials, and then mail it back to their voting office.

In the 2006 midterm elections, Americans living abroad returned only a third of the approximately one million absentee ballots mailed out to them. With roughly six million Americans serving in the military overseas or living abroad eligible to vote, that works out to a pretty dismal 5.5% turnout rate. In this election, expatriate voting rates should be much better — and not just because of the presidential race at the top of the ballot.

The voting process has always been especially difficult for Americans serving in the military, who are often posted to remote locations and move around a great deal. The military postal service recommends that soldiers mail their completed ballots by Sept. 30 in order for them to be counted, but acknowledges that only 24 states have absentee ballots available by that date. Some states also prohibit methods of delivery other than by the United States Postal Service, or require American witnesses to verify the legitimacy of absentee ballots, which further complicates the process.

This year, however, a joint effort by the nonpartisan Overseas Vote Foundation and Fedex has made voting easier for Americans abroad. The Overseas Vote Foundation showed voters how to order their ballots online — and Fedex shipped the ballots back to the United States for free, or at drastically reduced rates. Expatriates who ordered an absentee ballot that never arrived also have the option to print and fill out a federal write-in absentee ballot, which allows them to vote only for federal officials, and then mail it back to their voting office.

In this election, expats have no excuses.

OMAR TORRES/AFP/Getty Images

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