Letter to the Editor
Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) has launched a first-of-its-kind research project to establish a reliable count of Americans living outside the U.S. The “Overseas Citizens Count Project” (OCC) provides a formalized methodology for counting Americans living abroad while guaranteeing their anonymity, as with the U.S. Census itself.
“Heading into another General Election Year it becomes painfully obvious that if we don’t know our own community, how many and where they are, we cannot properly harness the power of the overseas vote,” stated Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, OVF President and CEO.
The U.S. Census counts all American citizens in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico every 10 years but has found it difficult to count non-federally-employed Americans living abroad.
Unofficial estimates of the number of Americans living abroad from the State Department and other expatriate community groups range from 4 to 10 million. Even at 4 million, this represents a larger community of Americans than the combined populations of Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska and South Dakota, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
Unlike expatriates from many other nations, overseas American citizens retain their voting rights over time. Yet it has been difficult for the U.S. government to make a reliable or coordinated effort to count them.?
“Despite all the attention, legislation and effort put toward overseas voting in the US, we have never been able to measure overseas voter turnout. And we never will, unless projects like this one succeed. But that is just the tip of the iceberg on this community coming together,” said Dzieduszycka-Suinat.
OVF hopes to demonstrate that the Internet and social media can be used to accurately measure this population. Such demographic statistics can be used to support efforts to gain recognition for the needs of overseas citizens and better access to U.S. services from overseas.
The OCC Project website will remain open until July 15; it requests that users self-report simple demographic information. The final report is to be released at the end of 2011.
OVF is a non-partisan non-profit organization that provides online voting services to U.S. citizens overseas. In 2008, 4.75 million website visitors used OVF’s voter services. The organization has also sponsored and executed the Post Election Voter Survey every federal election since 2004.
The results of the 2010 survey were released at OVF’s Fifth Annual UOCAVA Summit on February 10, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Drawing from responses from more than 5,000 voters in 140 countries and more than 1,550 local election officials in the US, the 30-page report measured the impact of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act on the 2010 General Election.
About Overseas Vote Foundation:
OVF (www.overseasvotefoundation.org) helps overseas and military voters participate in U.S. elections by providing public access to secure, web-based voter registration tools and services. OVF nurtures open and constructive discussion on the role and use of technology in overseas and military voting. OVF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity incorporated in Delaware.