Voting From Outside the United States

Yes, you can be an American expat, not maintain a state residency, and vote in US elections.

Voting From Outside the United States

I have a confession to make. I didn't vote in the 2016 presidential election for the United States. I know, it's horrible. I'm horrible. In my defense, I didn't think I was allowed to vote.

Being Stateless (Or At Least U.S. Stateless)

We moved away from Virginia and the United States in late 2012 for Switzerland and then in mid-2019 on to Indonesia. While we have remained U.S. citzens, we have not been residents of a U.S. state since 2012.

Since I wasn't a resident of a U.S. state, I didn't think I could vote in U.S. presidential elections. Why would I think that?

Well, in a U.S. presidential election, citizens don't vote for candidates directly. Citizens vote on how the electors for their state will cast their electoral votes. Those electoral votes from states are what actually determine who becomes president and vice-president. (It's a terribly flawed and undemocratic system, but I'll save that for another blog post.)

I assumed that without residency in a U.S. state, I had no way to vote for the electors of any state. I also assumed this meant that I couldn't vote in Democratic Party presidential primaries. The good news is that I think/hope I was wrong and that I can vote in both for 2020.

Democrats Abroad and the Global Democratic Presidential Primary

I've found out about a lovely organization called Democrats Abroad. It is "the official Democratic Party arm for the millions of Americans living outside the United States."

The organization runs a Global Democratic Presidental Primary. The Global Primary for 2020 will award 21 Democratic National Convention delegates, holding 17 votes, of which 13 will be pledged delegates allocated by the voting process. Democrats living abroad can register and vote online in the Global Primary until March 10th. Participation is free. You can only vote in the Global Primary if you aren't voting in a state primary.

Thirteen delegates may not sound like a lot, but the number of Global Primary voters is fairly small. So this is a case where a small number of votes can really matter.

In 2016, a majority of Democrats Abroad voters Felt The Bern. Bernie Sanders received 69% of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 31%. Sanders picked up nine delegates to Clinton's four. Sanders also received four pledged superdelegates. Voter turnout was up 50% from the 2008 election, with 34,570 voters from over 170 countries.

I will be voting in the Global Primary. With Pete Buttigieg out of the race, I will be deciding between Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. I will probably go with Biden for electability reasons.

If you're a Republican living outside of the U.S., you might want to check out Republicans Overseas. It doesn't appear that they do a global primary, but they do help organize Republicans outside of the U.S. in other ways.

Voting for President From Abroad While Stateless

I've also found out about a lovely part of the U.S. government called the Federal Voting Assistance Program. It runs a Federal Post Card Application process for U.S. citizens living abroad to request absentee ballots from local election offices in the U.S.

If you're only voting for federal offices, you can use the address of your last residence in the U.S. without needing to still control that address, without needing to claim residency at the address, and without incurring state or local tax liability. This sounds perfect for my situation.

(If you still maintain legal residency in a U.S. state while living abroad, you can use this same FPCA process to request absentee ballots for federal, state, and local offices.)

I'm submitting my FPCA this week and crossing my fingers. I hope I will get to vote for president this year!

Main blog post image by Element5 Digital.