Group asks for stories from overseas voters
July 22, 2008
Are you a military voter stationed or deployed overseas? What has been your experience when trying to submit your ballot outside of your home state? Did you have problems? Did you find a way to navigate the system on your own?
Whatever your experiences, there are people who want to hear from you.
As part of the lead-up to a September summit on military and overseas voting, the Pew Charitable Trust’s Make Voting Work initiative wants to hear from civilians and troops overseas about their voting experiences.
No one is quite sure just how well the current system is working for the estimated 6 million Americans living overseas. About 1 million Americans requested an absentee ballot for the 2006 election, but only about 25 percent of those ballots were actually counted, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Government officials and agencies are at a loss as to why so many requested ballots were not successfully cast.
Getting overseas voter feedback will help highlight issues with the current system, said Michael Caudell-Fegan, director of the Make Voting Work program. The Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program oversees American voters abroad, but often each state and county has different requirements for absentee voting.
The dispersed nature of overseas voters often means they get attention from politicians only at election time, he said, but real solutions require a long-term approach.
"What we need is to develop an evidence base and the political will to solve this problem," Caudell-Fegan said. "We need to hear from the voters themselves."
Voters do have an obligation to figure out their jurisdiction’s requirements and follow ballot deadlines, but the government can do more as well, he said.
"We have an election system that simply doesn’t serve our voting population as well as it should," he said. "We don’t think it’s a crisis, but the U.S. system should be the envy of the world."
Share your thoughts
How has your overseas voting experience been? Good? Bad? Either way, the folks at the Make Voting Work initiative want to hear from you. Military voters can e-mail their thoughts to email@example.com. Overseas civilians can send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.