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Helping Americans vote from abroad is making a difference

BY LAURA MOSEDALE | Every New Yorker likely knows someone who is living outside the country. The couple who moved to London for “three to five years” for a work assignment and are still there 25 years later. The friend who is studying abroad for a semester in Italy, or a full degree in Canada, or graduate school in Singapore. Or the “accidental American” who was born while her noncitizen parents were living in the States and moved back to their home country.

What do all these U.S. citizens have in common? Under federal law, they have the right to vote from abroad in the U.S. elections. No matter how long they’ve been away. Even if they never plan to return.

The writer, center, with two student voter registration volunteers at King’s College London this January. (Courtesy Laura Mosedale)

There are up to 9 million Americans who live outside the U.S. and they are part of an increasingly significant voting bloc in U.S. elections. Abroad Americans have been the margin of victory in close elections, both state and federal, at least since 2000. Abroad civilian voter registration numbers jumped 50 percent between 2016 and 2020. Around 900,000 U.S. citizens returned ballots from abroad in 2020, a record. This was enough to bring both Georgia and Arizona over the finish line for Biden that year.

I am one of those overseas voters, born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and it was my husband’s job that brought us to London in 1998. We are dual citizens now with no immediate plans to return full time.

Yet we will always care deeply about what happens in the U.S. Our children, families and friends live there, we visit often, and we know what happens in American politics has an enormous impact on every point on the planet.

That’s why I joined Democrats Abroad, the official overseas arm of the Democratic Party. We hold our own Global Presidential Primary and send delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Our chief aim is to get out the vote among our fellow Americans. Given the total number of citizens abroad, there is huge potential to increase our impact.

A student voter registration drive at Richmond American University London in September 2018. (Photo by Laura Mosedale)

New Yorkers can help. As a public service, Democrats Abroad created a Web site,, that makes it easy for all abroad citizens to both register to vote and request their overseas absentee ballots. The site takes them through the steps to fill out a one-page form, the Federal Post Card Application (F.P.C.A.), designed specifically for voters abroad. Please e-mail/text/call anyone you know who won’t be in the U.S. in November 2024 and ask them to go to today. Right now!

The site also has FAQs and state-specific information, so users can find out answers to anything about voting from abroad — even what’s on their ballot. A bonus is that voters will, if they indicate they are Democrats or “other” when filling out the form, be asked if they would like to join Democrats Abroad. (They won’t be asked if they say they are Republican.) Membership is free and they can learn what is happening with Democrats in America and how to get involved.

An undergraduate student, left, at University College London with a voter registration volunteer in September 2022. (Photo by Laura Mosedale)

As the co-chairperson of voter registration for Democrats Abroad UK, Democrats Abroad’s largest country committee, I have trained volunteers and organized and staffed voter registration drives and outreach events around the country over the past five election cycles. D.A.U.K. has many ways to reach its members — with events, phone calls, texts, postcards and e-mails — to remind them to request their ballots and vote. But we also need to reach beyond our membership to increase our impact.

Since more than 40,000 Americans come to the U.K. every year to study, they are our main targets for voter registration. Students also need help the most — some have never voted, and almost none have any idea how to vote from abroad. Some motivated students assure us that their parents will mail them their absentee ballots. That won’t work. By the time a ballot arrives at their home address in the States and is mailed abroad, it’s usually too late to return it in time.

At the CAPA Study Abroad program in London in 2018. (Courtesy Laura Mosedale)

By using and sending in the F.P.C.A., we can choose to receive our ballot by e-mail and get it 45 days before elections. Thirty states will also allow abroad voters to return their voted ballots by e-mail/online upload and/or fax. Twenty states (including New York) still require the ballots to be postal mailed back, which is why voters should return their ballots as soon as they get them. The top reason overseas votes are rejected is that they arrive too late to be counted.

We have developed contacts with staff and students at U.K. universities and U.S. study abroad programs, so we can set up and run drives during student orientation and welcome fairs. Most of these take place between August and October.

Our voter registration drives are (and have to be) nonpartisan — which means we don’t talk about or promote any party or candidate. How can we know that our outreach mainly benefits Democrats? You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. It’s obvious from what voters say to each other and sometimes to us that they know our democracy is at stake in 2024. Women are especially eager to request their ballots.

A sign at a student drive at the Foundation for International Education in London in September 2018. (Photo by Laura Mosedale)

Anecdotally, my “moderate Republican” acquaintances have been voting for Democratic presidential candidates since 2004. Some now volunteer with D.A.

The data also provides clues about the composition of the abroad vote. In 2020, about 3 percent of V.F.A. site users were registered Republican, 75 percent registered Democrat, and the rest different party names (mostly leaning Democrat). Because V.F.A. is nonpartisan and Democrats Abroad’s ads promoting the site were, too, and because the majority of the site’s users were not members of D.A., this divide is revealing.

Despite his administration’s many outstanding achievements, President Biden has a hard race ahead of him. The Electoral College, not the popular vote, poses a big challenge. But overseas Americans, who come from every state, can give him, and other Democrats up and down the ballot, a major assist — if they all vote.

Questions? E-mail

Mosedale is voting assistance officer and co-chairperson of voter registration, Democrats Abroad UK.


  1. Randi Weitzner Randi Weitzner February 15, 2024

    Such a good explanation of the process of voting abroad, who needs to know this information and how easy it is to get it done and be a part of the US citizenry that shapes the future of democracy.

  2. Michael Ramos Michael Ramos February 13, 2024

    Great article and very informative, thank you for posting this. As an overseas American myself, I look forward to exploring the Democrats Abroad web site, signing up as a member, and requesting my ballot from home. Good stuff.

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