The Center for U.S. Voters Abroad (CUVA) is a non-profit organization that helps eligible U.S. citizens vote regardless of where they’re located in the world.
All we need is some basic information from you — just as you’d fill out on a standard voter registration form — and we’ll walk you through it, quick and easy.
The Center for U.S. Voters Abroad believes that every overseas vote counts, yours included. In fact, in two recent elections of U.S. Senators, enough overseas voters cast ballots to swing the outcome. If the overseas voter population was ranked as a state, it would be the 37th most populous (smaller than Kansas, but larger than New Mexico!).
But in 2020, the federal government estimates that fewer than 8% of overseas U.S. voters voted. And a federal report released in 2018 estimated that 82% of registered expats who do not cast a ballot and 40% of unregistered expats are blocked by procedural barriers. In certain regions, as many as 97% of registered, non-voting survey respondents reported that they were unable to complete the voting process. In addition, as many as 25% or more of ballots cast are not counted.
Our mission is to change that.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, gives U.S. citizens living outside the country the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections, including those who have left the U.S. permanently. In addition, various states also allow overseas voters to participate in state and local elections.
Today, the federal government estimates that there are roughly 2.9 million non-military Americans eligible to vote from abroad. In addition, another 1.9 million youth under 18 will age into this electorate in coming years. Yet the turnout in the 2020 presidential elections was just 7.8%, compared to nearly 70% stateside.
Voting from abroad can be challenging and complicated, not least because there is so much variation in rules and regulations by state. For instance, some states require that registration forms and ballots be submitted by mail, while others allow submission by email or fax. States also have different rules around whether overseas voters are eligible to participate in state and local elections, and these rules can further vary depending on whether or not a voter indicates they intend to return to the U.S. on their registration form. In most states, overseas voters are asked to register to vote via special process, by filling out a federal form called the Federal Postcard Application, or FPCA. In contrast, voters within the U.S. register to vote by filling out their state’s form, which will be different for every state.
The government agency officially tasked with providing federal support for overseas voters is the Department of Defence, because UOCAVA also covers military voters. Specifically, the Department of Defense houses a “Federal Voting Assistance Program” to support overseas voters at the federal level by providing education and resources. Meanwhile, state and local election officials are responsible for receiving the FPCAs submitted overseas voters and then sending absentee ballots to those overseas voters. In general, your local election officials are the ones you will be in contact with about your registration and ballot.
- Register. Fill out your FPCA form. In the U.S. you must register to vote (versus other countries, such as Sweden, where eligible voters automatically receive their ballots). Your FPCA form serves as your registration form and needs to be sent to your election official, based on the county in which you register. As a note, a portion of registration forms that are submitted are rejected, e.g. because they are filled out incorrectly, and election officials do not always notify you that your registration has been rejected. So we recommend making sure that your registration has been successful by calling or writing your election official.
- Vote. Once your FPCA form is approved, you will be put on a list of voters to receive absentee ballots. Your state election officials are then legally required to send you a ballot 45 days before any federal election. Depending on the state you register in and other conditions, you may also be eligible to vote in your state and local elections. Also depending on your state, you may be able to receive and submit your ballot either by mail or electronically.
- Don’t receive your ballot? If you register to vote but for whatever reason do not receive your ballot in time for you to feel confident that you can submit your ballot by election deadlines, federal law gives you the right to request an “emergency back-up ballot” called the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Note that if your state absentee ballot arrives after you’ve already sent in the FWAB, you can still fill out and send in the official ballot as well; your state will count only one.
Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you run into issues with your registration. Our team is here to help.
Mail: Center for U.S. Voters Abroad, PO Box 31966, Seattle, WA, USA 98103