Internet and Federal Act Ease Overseas U.S. Voting

By Knowlton, Brian | International Herald Tribune, January 31, 2013 | Go to article overview

Internet and Federal Act Ease Overseas U.S. Voting


Knowlton, Brian, International Herald Tribune


The growing use of technology and a 2009 law reponding to complaints about a frustrating system seem to have helped streamline the process.

Voting from abroad continued to become easier in last year's U.S. election, thanks to the combined effects of federal law and Internet resources, according to a new study by the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan voter-assistance group.

Whereas a full half of expatriate American voters surveyed by the group after the 2008 election reported not receiving a ballot or receiving it too late, that figure declined to one-third for the 2010 election and to just one-fifth in last year's presidential election.

"The tipping point is in the use of technology," said Claire M. Smith, research manager for the foundation. "There's no going back."

She said that more than 80 percent of survey respondents had used the Internet last year to help register or request a ballot form and that for the first time in five election cycles, more than half received a blank ballot electronically (via e-mail attachment, fax or Internet download).

The foundation surveyed more than 13,500 voters in 160 countries. Most of the names came from the foundation's mailing list, so the findings cannot be considered scientific. But Ms. Smith said that by several standards -- country of residence, state of origin, education level and economic status -- they closely mirrored what is known about the American expatriate population.

Ms. Smith said the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009, passed in response to complaints by overseas civilian and military voters about a frustrating system, "does appear to have had a positive impact: More people are getting ballots on time, and they were able to submit ballots earlier. …

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