Groundbreaking Data Released Concerning U.S. Military and Overseas Voters

On September 21 the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), a Department of Defense organization tasked with ensuring that service members and overseas citizens are given the tools and resources necessary to vote, released the findings of the first-ever representative survey of overseas voters who requested an absentee ballot. FVAP will use their analysis of this information to better reach and provide information to overseas voters.

The FVAP survey found that of the 2.6 million eligible voters living overseas, four percent cast their ballots in the 2014 elections.  FVAP Director Matt Boehmer noted, “While we can expect to see an increase in the overall voting rates for the 2016 presidential election, we need to understand whether the overall rate for 2014 is due to low awareness of how to vote absentee or if it is related to other factors.”  Because there is no list of overseas citizens, it is difficult to learn about them. The demographic statistics presented by FVAP are taken from the results of a survey that was sent out to U.S. registered voters who were living abroad and requested an absentee ballot in 2014.

In September 2013, CSG launched a four-year, $3.2 million initiative with FVAP to improve the return rate of overseas absentee ballots from service members and U.S. citizens abroad. In recent years, CSG has convened  working group meetings consisting of select state and local election administrators from multiple states to propose recommendations related to policy, technology and survey analysis.  These recommendations are being shared with CSG membership and the elections administration community in an attempt to reduce voting obstacles for overseas citizens.  CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative website can be accessed here:

Overseas Voting: By the Numbers

  • 5.7 million Americans live abroad.
  • 2.6 million are eligible voters (18+ years old).
  • 43% are dual citizens.
  • Only 6% are between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • 66% are abroad due to work.
  • 93,000 overseas ballots were received in 2014 (4% voter turnout rate of those eligible to vote).
  • 57% of those who were registered to vote cast their ballots in 2014.
  • Of those who did not vote:
    • 30% faced issues voting absentee.
    • 23% felt out of touch with their nation or local community.
    • 12% had no candidate preference.

The complete FVAP report can be found here.

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