Overseas Voting (Fall 2007 Trust Magazine briefing)

  • December 03, 2007

More than six million Americans— members of the military and civilians— live overseas, and many of them find it arduous, through no fault of their own, to vote in U.S. elections. A recent government report revealed that between two-thirds and one-half of the ballots mailed to overseas voters were not returned in time to be counted for the 2006 election.

According to new research from the Pew-supported, these potential voters face a perfect storm of challenges: inconsistent processes and requirements specified by the states, outmoded systems used by election offices, and sluggish domestic and international mail delivery.

In October, Pew and the Overseas Vote Foundation announced novel Web-based voter services to help this constituency. A new Web site and integrated voter-services applications, available at offer a user-friendly online system to automate the complex process facing military and civilian overseas voters attempting to register to vote and request absentee ballots. The site's Election Official Directory provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date listing of local U.S. election-office contact information.

Here is how it works: The Web site prompts the voter for information necessary to register to vote in his/her home state in accordance with each state's unique regulations. Error-checks occur during the process to ensure that the voter does not forget any required information. The site then generates an official form in PDF format and provides the voter with the correct county election-office address for mailing. The program eliminates the need to individually research and navigate unique state regulations and mailing instructions, thus doing away with the necessity of culling through pages of information. Furthermore, the Overseas Vote Foundation permits states to license and customize the new software for their individual use.

Pew's partnership with the foundation is part of a larger effort by Make Voting Work, which is a project of Pew's Center on the States ( that supports policies, practices and technologies to enhance the accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security of U.S. elections.