As Americans living abroad, our citizenship guarantees us the right to vote throughout our entire adulthood, regardless of residency. We have an opportunity to vote with a united voice. There are about 8.7 million Americans living abroad, almost the size of the 12th largest state, Virginia.
The US Constitution left the issue of voting rights up to the 50 states, U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia, and granted the states wide latitude in how they administer elections. The specifics of how elections are conducted differ between the states; this equates to 55 sets of rules for absentee voting. An example is in 2008, 16 states allowed American citizen born overseas who has never resided in the U.S. to vote in American elections; while, today there are thirty-seven states which extend these privileges. (*Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Colombia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington (State), West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming)
Why vote? If enough of us vote, we can show strength. Consider some laws that have been passed by Congress. FATCA issue is huge and it deserves all the attention it is getting, but there is another issue affecting expats that is also very important. Medicare is useless while living abroad, but if you do not sign up and pay premiums for Part B once you are 65 you will incur a 10 percent penalty for EACH year over 65 that you did not pay premiums for Part B once you return to the US and sign up.
”The most effective lobbying effort is voting, not only in the general election, but also in the primary for or against a candidate who stands for or against your issue such as FATCA or Citizenship Based Taxation. The major reason Republicans Overseas sued the IRS for FATCA’s eight-count constitutional violations on behalf of 8.7 million overseas Americans first is that we couldn’t demonstrate the overseas vote is a political force to be reckoned with. In 2012, only 389,000 absentee ballots were returned out of 7.6 million overseas Americans during the general election. The vast majority of them voted for Obama who FATCAed them. Not voting and voting for the wrong party are real reasons that overseas Americans have no representation in Washington DC.” Solomon Yue, Vice Chairman and CEO of Republicans Overseas.
“If you are a US citizen, you have a say in choosing the country’s elected officials. It is your right. US foreign policy, particularly with respect to the Middle East, has a significant impact on Israel and American citizens who live there. I encourage all Americans, including expats, to exercise their right to make their voices heard.” Congressman Joe Heck, State of Nevada
Ready to Vote? It Is Now Easier Than Ever Before
Now all U.S. citizens can receive their blank ballots electronically. Depending on the state in which you are eligible to vote, you may get your ballot by email, fax, or internet download. To start, go to Overseas Vote to complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), print and sign the form then return it to your local election office in the United States. Citizens residing outside the U.S. may not arbitrarily choose which state to declare as their legal voting residence. Your “legal state of residence” for voting purposes is the address where you last resided immediately prior to your departure from the U.S., not where you last voted. This residence remains valid even though you may no longer own property, or have other ties to your last state residence, and your intent to return to that state may be uncertain.
Don’t be a passive voter and wait for a ballot that may not reach you in time. If you followed all the right steps but still haven’t received your ballot 30 days before the election, you should complete and submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB).
Write in the candidates of your choice, and send it to your local election officials. If your regular absentee ballot arrives later, fill it out and send it back too. Your FWAB will be counted only if your regular ballot doesn’t reach your local election officials by your state’s deadline. Following this procedure will not invalidate your vote or result in two votes being cast.
Not voting because you are afraid voting will affect your tax status? When in doubt, always go the source for facts, then decide.
Federal Voting Assistance Program — “It depends. Voting for Federal office candidates will not affect your Federal or State tax liability. Depending on the laws of your State, voting for State or local offices may affect your State income tax liability. If you are concerned about your State tax status, consult legal counsel.”
Overseas Vote — Voter Help Desk — “For federal elections, there is NO link. Federal elections include elections for President and Vice President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. An easy distinction is – if you’re voting to send the candidate to Washington, it’s a federal election.”
ACA Voting and Taxes — “Voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect your federal or state tax liability. However, some states consider voting in state/local elections as an indication that you remain a resident of the state although abroad, and therefore are subject to state taxes.”
US Department of State — “Voting for candidates for federal offices does not affect your federal or state tax liability. Voting for candidates for state or local offices could affect your state tax liability. Consult legal counsel if you have questions.” Source:
Israeli accountant, Alan Deutsch C.P.A. (Mordy Cohen) — “Place of voting is a factor used to determine domicile. If a snow bird living in a cold US State only votes in Florida this would further justify that his center of life is Florida if he is trying to prove FL residency. If the person’s residence is Israel voting in a US election even one affiliated with a state has no tax consequences associated with it. It’s rare that a state will make a domiciliary argument against someone living in a foreign country unless he is in the US for over 180 days. Then they are correct. Voting would not have influenced their decision.”
“Both major political parties have the shared goal of increasing turnout among expatriate voters. However, Democrats Abroad is far better integrated into the national party and, as a result, has clear advantages over its counterpart, not least in the voting opportunities it gives its members and the enthusiasm it can generate.
“Founded in 1964, Democrats Abroad (DA) has been formally recognized as a ‘state’ by the Democratic Party (for the purposes of the presidential primary) since 1976. This means that Democrats Abroad is entitled to send a total of 21 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, a delegation of comparable size to those of Wyoming and Maine. Since 2008, in order to determine the apportionment of those delegates, Democrats Abroad has held a ‘Global Presidential Primary’ as part of Super Tuesday. As well as being able to vote by post, fax, and e-mail, expatriate Democrats can cast ballots at designated Voting Centers
“In contrast to Democrats Abroad, Republicans Overseas has no formal institutional relationship to the national Republican Party. It has technically only existed since 2013, though its predecessor organization (Republicans Abroad) was founded in 1978.
“Democrats Abroad and Republicans Overseas remain vibrant and ambitious organizations, determined to find new and creative ways to represent the interests of party members and the wider expatriate community. The extraordinarily low turnout rate among American expatriates indicates that they still have some way to go before this community begins to approach its full potential as a voting bloc. Nonetheless, the rise of the overseas voter, and the growing awareness that a democracy’s electorate may no longer be bound by national borders, has the potential to reshape our understanding of not only political parties but the nation state itself.” Jay Sexton and Patrick Andelic
A total of 412 Israeli voters cast votes in the March 8th Democrats Global Presidential Primary. It was an unprecedented turnout, up 50% from 2008. 34,570 voters cast their ballots from over 170 countries all around the world, through in-person voting, by fax, email, and post.
According to Solomon Yue, “Republicans Overseas can’t take side in this Republican primary because we have been working with all our Presidential candidates to repeal FATCA. All our candidates are on the same page with us regarding FATCA. We leave individual Republican presidential campaign to organize their overseas votes in this primary because repeal FATCA is our ultimate objective. Overseas Americans must vote not only to have their voice heard in Washington DC, but also for the party which champions their issues.”
Since 2008, I have been helping Americans living in Israel to vote. I have noticed a real increase in voters, many of whom have lived in Israel for over 35 years. Why now? Each voter had their reason. I think Abraham Lincoln sums up why we should vote — “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the people and burn their behinds, then they will have to sit on their blisters.”