Americans living abroad need to re-register to vote.

Chesney Hearst of The Rio Times is reporting that the deadline for Americans living in Brazil to register for the U.S. Presidential election is September 10, 2012. Many voters abroad erroneously believe that if they have registered to vote in previous years, then they are eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election. According to The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, Americans living abroad have to re-register each year. The “Move Act” was enacted in 1986 and expanded in 2009 “to provide greater protections for service members, their families and other overseas citizens,” according to the Department of Justice’s website. There are several organizations that assist American citizens living abroad on voting:, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, and Republicans Abroad. The votes can be submitted electronically (website, email or fax) or turned in at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

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  1. Thank you for this piece and for informing expatriate U.S. voters about their rights.

    Please note, though, that the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act was passed in 2009; its purpose was to amend the 1986 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

    The MOVE Act does not, in fact, require overseas voters to re-register every year; it does require them to file an absentee ballot request every year (at least that is how the law is currently being interpreted). The forms for registering and requesting ballots are the same, but the distinction is important because a few states dispense with voter registration altogether. And others keep voters registered virtually for life. Regardless, overseas voters in those states still need to file an absentee ballot request every calendar year to receive ballots for all the elections in which they are eligible to vote.

    The MOVE Act does two other very important things: It requires states to make ballots available to voters at least 45 days before the election. And it requires states to make ballots available by electronic means: by fax, by email, or by internet download. Generally, each state has adopted only one method.

    Finally, in regard to what you’ve said in this short piece: The ability to return ballots to the United States by electronic means is not guaranteed by the law. So return options do vary by state. Most do not allow electronic transmission for ballot return; and if you do return your ballot electronically, you must waive your ballot secrecy, which is probably not what most voters will want to do.

    Should you or your readers need any further information or assistance with overseas voting procedures, please contact us. The Voting Assistant Officers at the Union of Overseas Voters have over 40 years experience helping U.S. citizens abroad exercise their civic rights. The Union is a non-partisan, non-profit and our core mission is empowering American voters abroad.

    Tony Frank Paschall
    Founder & Chair
    Union of Overseas Voters
    Paris, France

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