U.S. Dept. of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program Publishes New Research on the “UOCAVA Gap”

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recently released research introducing the “UOCAVA Gap,” a new and more effective metric that examines the effect of voting obstacles faced by Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) active duty military (ADM) members. Trends in the UOCAVA Gap suggest that, despite fluctuations in the ADM participation rate, overall UOCAVA obstacles to voting have been relatively stable from 2010 to 2016.

Previous FVAP research studies, have made comparisons between the ADM population and the Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) voter participation rates to estimate trends in UOCAVA obstacles over time. In this UOCAVA Gap study, FVAP breaks ADM down even further by dividing that population by UOCAVA ADM and non-UOCAVA, or those who reside in their voting jurisdiction, ADM.

The UOCAVA Gap compares the voting rates of UOCAVA ADM and non-UOCAVA ADM that have similar demographics and motivation to vote, but experience different obstacles to voting. This study found that from 2010-2016, UOCAVA ADM were approximately 25% less likely to vote than non-UOCAVA ADM.

This research note presents:

  • A review of the academic literature examining the factors that influence voter participation and previous studies comparing participation in similar subgroups
  • How the UOCAVA Gap is conceptualized and defined using Post-Election Voting Survey data from 2010-2016
  • Estimates of the UOCAVA Gap for the 2010-2016 elections and findings that UOCAVA ADM have consistently voted at a rate approximately one-fourth lower than similarly motivated non-UOCAVA ADM
  • A summary of the findings, limitations and directions for future research, as well as policy recommendations

FVAP’s mission is to ensure that all UOCAVA voters who want to vote are able to do so, and this UOCAVA Gap metric provides a better understanding of the unique obstacles ADM UOCAVA voters face and better support these voters in overcoming those obstacles.



CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative launched in 2013 through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, to improve the return rate of overseas absentee ballots from service members and U.S. citizens abroad. The link to CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative can be found here: http://www.csg.org/ovi/default.aspx

FVAP works to ensure Service members, their eligible family members and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully do so -- from anywhere in the world. The Director of FVAP administers the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) on behalf of the Secretary of Defense. UOCAVA requires that the 50 States, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia allow protected voters to register and vote absentee in general, special, primary and runoff elections for federal offices. States and territories may have supplementary laws and requirements, which are available at FVAP.gov.