America’s Voting Team

According to FVAP, only 4.7% of Americans overseas voted in the 2018 Midterm Election.

It takes a village to raise a child is an African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

It takes a community of hard-working individuals, and elected officials to make sure every OVERSEAS/MILITARY voter’s vote is valid and counted.

Each state has their own voting laws and deadlines; which to some might seem confusing.  Why does West Virginia allow a voter phone app to vote, and New York requires ballots to be returned via “snail mail”?  Overseas and military voters who are far from home have help from the federal government, all the way down to their local election office.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is a voter assistance and education program established by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) in accordance with federal law to ensure that members of the U.S. armed forces, their eligible family members, and U.S. citizens overseas are aware of their right to vote, and have the tools to do so from the country where they are residing.

FVAP works closely with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), National Association of Election Directors (NASED), and all the embassies around the world in order to help and encourage overseas and military voters.  The goal of these government agencies is to help YOU, the American living, working, or studying overseas.

Need answers to your voting questions?  FVAP website helps you register, find your state’s guidelines, election dates, deadlines, and how you can contact your election office.  You can also check the status of your voted ballot.  Their Facebook page offers voting suggestions, videos, and much more.  If you are still stuck and don’t know what to do or whom you should reach out to, they are available by email vote@fvap.gov.   When SM-Z had her correctly addressed NY primary ballot envelope returned by the USPS, she was totally frustrated and didn’t know what to do.  She contacted FVAP and received a very prompt response, “Thank you for sending us a copy of your envelope.  We’ve engaged our representatives at the United States Postal Service to understand exactly why your material would be flagged as undeliverable.  As soon as we have more information, we will follow-up with you directly.”

Only 4.8% of Americans overseas voted in the 2018 Midterm Election. With such a low turnout, what message does overseas Americans send to the President, Congress, and Senate? (FVAP Photo)

Federal and Congressional mandates require FVAP to provide reports on effectiveness, activities, and various research initiatives.  The study assesses overseas voting participation, monitors how voters are navigating the absentee voting process from abroad, and informs efforts to remove obstacles.   These reports are presented to the President, Congress, and Senate.  Only 4.8% of Americans overseas voted in the 2018 Midterm Election.  With such a low turnout, what message does overseas Americans send to the President, Congress, and Senate? We do have a voice and need to speak up to be heard. No, it isn’t difficult to vote overseas because of the various governmental agencies that are ready to help.

In non-Covid Federal Election years FVAP traveled the globe to provide voting training to US Embassies staff.  Thanks to technology, training continued and Embassies have become more proactive in reaching overseas Americans.  US Embassy Jerusalem’s website and Facebook page offers voting information, but this year they interact with the public by providing a series of Facebook events ranging from the Electoral Process to Q & A on Voting.

National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) is the nation’s oldest nonpartisan professional organization for public officials. “In order to help voters, we have launched #TrustedInfo2020—an education effort to promote election officials as the trusted sources of election information. By driving voters directly to election officials’ websites and social media pages, we will ensure voters are getting accurate election information and cut down on the misinformation and disinformation that can surround elections. #TrustedInfo2020 aims to highlight state and local election officials as the credible, verified sources for election information.”  NASS website

“As we quickly approach the general election, now is the time to register to vote or check your voter registration,” said NASS President and New Mexi­co Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. “It is also absolutely critical to get your information from state and local election officials to ensure you are receiving timely, accurate election updates.”

To find your election official or to learn more about your state’s specific voter registration requirements visit canivote.org, a helpful nonpartisan website cre­ated by state election officials to help eligible individuals learn how and where to go vote.

On the state level, there are many hardworking elected Secretary of States who go beyond what is required.

American attorney, veteran, and the current West Virginia Secretary of State, Marc Warner has a passion for transparent, fair and fraud-free elections.  Because of his military background and keen interest in election cyber security, Secretary Warner has earned national attention for West Virginia  as a leader in protecting voter databases and elections systems. He has teamed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to produce the premier program to educate the American public on election security, foreign influence, and protective measures against cyber threats to elections.

“Just a quick note to let you know we’re fully engaged back home here in WV.  The election is on top of us, and we’re dealing with everything from absentee ballots to poll worker recruitment.  One aspect – that of electronic voting – is proceeding extremely smoothly, and I’m looking forward to another highly successful election wherein people like you around the globe are able to vote easily and not have to worry about mail delivery.  COVID-19 has brought new interest in e-voting, so we’ll see whether it gains more popularity after Nov 3rd.”  Marc Warner

West Virginia has implemented a secure mobile voting application that allows voters to receive, vote, and return their ballots electronically. The application also utilizes blockchain technology to store electronically submitted ballots until election night, and requires a heightened standard of identity verification for users than traditional absentee ballot processes.

The app, which also utilizes biometric facial recognition software and thumbprint safeguards to ensure the identity of the voter, increased the confidence of the auditors. In short, the nation’s first mobile voting app test pilot in 2018 was a success.

Twenty states require voters to return their ballots via “snail mail”.  Many voters are worried about the USPS and if they are equipped to handle domestic and overseas mail.  Returning individual ballots by courier could become extremely expensive.  I reached out to Lisa Kinnemore, Military Liaison,  Georgia Secretary of State

“I understand the cost issue.  Yes, they can send multiple ballots in an envelope as long as the ballots and oaths are packaged according to the instructions and going to the same county voter registration office. We are doing well and diligently working to make sure Georgia citizens are able to receive their ballots by September 19 and cast their votes in the General Election. I’m glad you are standing in the gap and communicating with US citizens about the election officials dedication and commitment to safe and secure elections.  Please remind the voters to reach out to their election offices if they have questions or need assistance.”  Lisa has always provided prompt and wise answers.  If you plan to mail back more than one absentee ballot in a courier package, check with your state for their mailing guidelines.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate has dedicated his life to public service. Now in his third term as Iowa’s Commissioner of Elections, Secretary Pate is guided by three core principles: service, participation and integrity.

“The global pandemic has disrupted international mail distribution, raising concerns that Iowans living abroad, including those serving in the armed forces, could not receive and return ballots on the usual timeline”, according to Secretary of State Paul Pate. His emergency directive issued earlier this year and approved by the Iowa Legislative Council, now allows all overseas voters can return ballots via email

Pate’s voter education efforts have been recognized nationally. His office is the recipient of the 2019 ‘Clearie’ Award for Improving Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities from the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. The National Student/Parent Mock Election organization rewarded Secretary Pate with the Outstanding Leadership in Voter Education award in 2016. On multiple occasions, Pate’s Youth Straw Polls have garnered more than 55,000 participants from more than 250 schools around the state.

“Even though the work is stressful, especially this election year with a high-profile presidential election and a global pandemic, I love my job.  I love being a part the democratic process and making sure all voters can exercise their right to vote.  Among the rights that people hold most dear, voting is certainly near the top, so the work is really rewarding.  It makes the long hours and criticism worth it.”    Wayne Thorley, Deputy Sec of Election – Nevada and a member of NASED

Our voting address is our last address in America.  Since 2006, I have voted absentee from Clark County, Nevada.  We never know what happens when you transmit your ballot to your election officials.  Some might think it goes into “outer space”.

Last year we had the privilege of visiting the Clark County Election Department in Las Vegas, NV.  When you enter the front office, it looks like many businesses with a small, but nice lobby.  Elisset Maestri, Election Program Supervisor, greeted us and gave us a tour that we will never forget.  After leaving the lobby, we entered a giant warehouse; which was filled with voting machines.  She explained that none of them were connected to the internet and were very secure.  There were two locked rooms.  One contained email ballots, such as my overseas ballot, and the other locked room was where they counted the ballots.  There was a meeting room, and a bathroom with a shower.  When I asked about the shower, she said on election days, everyone works long hours, late into the night and the shower was a way to refresh themselves.  In non-election years, there are minimum staff and they hired people for the election.  Most of those that they hired were experienced, and loyal to make sure every vote counted.  These are the people that work hard for both domestic and overseas/military voters.

“We appreciate your efforts to inform overseas voters of the work that our staff puts in to making sure their votes are counted.  Feel free to share what you experienced and also emphasizing the ability for overseas voters to receive their ballot electronically, avoiding any issues that may arise as a result of mailing the ballot back in such a short time line.  In collaboration with the Nevada Sec of State’s Office, we have put many measures in place to ensure overseas voters can participate in the voting process.  Thanks for your support.”  Joe Gloria, Registrar of Voters, Clark County Election Department

Clark County Election Department mission is to be a dynamic, progressive, and responsive organization offering the citizens of Clark County multifaceted election services. Extend the highest level of customer service to all citizens.

“We work hard to make sure our military and overseas voters can participate in elections back home.  Electronic ballot delivery and return is an important option for many overseas voters, especially during the ongoing pandemic.  I have a lot of confidence in USPS domestically, but I understand the concern with international mail.  Overseas citizens who are registered to vote in Nevada and have concerns about USPS should definitely consider voting using www.nvease.gov.  Ballots will be available online for request starting Saturday, September 19.

“It was initiated by former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, and it has been whole-heartedly embraced by current Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.  Ross Miller took a trip overseas in 2012 that was sponsored by the Department of Defense, and he learned first-hand about the barriers to voting by military and overseas voters.  Once he got back from this trip, we applied for a grant from the Department of Defense to build the online system, and the rest is history (as they say).”  Wayne Thorley

Voting is one of our fundamental rights as U.S. citizens. Members of the military, their families, and Americans living abroad can choose to exercise that right — from anywhere in the world. In order to vote you must be registered to vote. The deadline to get registered and request your ballot for November 3 depends on your former state of residency.  Ballots are scheduled to be sent out on or about September 19th.  Don’t worry, you still have time to register.

Steps to take when voting absentee. Register to vote and request your emailed ballot in one easy step. Fill out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and send it to your election office.

  1. Verify your FPCA has been received and you are registered.
  2. Ballots will be sent out on or about September 19th.
  3. If you don’t receive your ballot, send in a Federal Write-In Ballot.  It works like a backup ballot. If your official absentee ballot arrives after sending in the FWAB, fill out and send in the official ballot too. Only one will be counted.
  4. Return your ballot ASAP via email, fax, online, or voter phone app.  If you state requires “snail mail”, considered sending via courier service. What if your state allows you to fax your ballot and you don’t have a fax?  No worries, FVAP’s Fax Service is available to help overseas and military voters.  Email your signed ballot to fax@fvap.gov, along with a completed Transmission Cover Sheet and any other forms requested by your state. FVAP will fax your ballot for you.
  1. After you send in your ballot, you can check if it was received by your election office.

Your voting team network is there for you, it is now up to each American overseas to step up to the plate, and vote.  If you need help, speak up, help is available.

YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE

YOU CAN HIRE OR FIRE ELECTED OFFICIALS

BY NOT VOTING, YOU ALLOW OTHERS TO SPEAK FOR YOU.

About the Author
Andee Goldman moved to Israel in 2006 from Las Vegas, Nevada. Since 2008, as a nonpartisan, she has volunteered helping Americans overseas to vote in America's Federal Elections. YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote As an Israeli, she has become a history buff and enjoys sharing her experience and travels around Israel and the world!! Andee is available to answer your voting questions at votingfromabroad@gmail.com
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