Washington, D.C. – This week U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, introduced H.R. 7219, the Digital Overseas Voting Act, to ensure that American servicemembers and citizens residing outside the U.S. will be able to exercise their right to vote in elections. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) allows for all overseas military servicemembers, their spouses and dependents, and American citizens to use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to cast their vote in U.S. elections. Due to the implementation of widespread global travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been significant delays in the movement of international mail, including absentee ballots and other essential election resources. The Digital Overseas Voting Act will require all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa to allow U.S. military servicemembers and other overseas citizens to submit their FWAB by e-mail, fax, or postal mail in federal primary, general, special and runoff elections.
“As the world continues to respond to the coronavirus, the FWAB will serve as a critical method of overseas absentee voting in upcoming federal elections,” said Rep. Lynch. “There are currently 20 states and two U.S. territories that will only accept the FWAB by mail only and will not accept federal absentee ballots from overseas voters by fax or email, which poses serious risk of undermining U.S. servicemembers and overseas citizens voting in upcoming federal elections. With the 2020 presidential election and other elections for federal office fast approaching, we must make every effort to protect and facilitate the right of every eligible overseas citizen to participate in their democracy.”
The FVAP is administered by the Department of Defense and serves to ensure that servicemembers, eligible family members, and overseas citizens are aware of and able to exercise their right to vote. To this end, the FVAP advocates for early voting and the use of the FWAB to compensate for delays in U.S. and host nation post services. The FWAB is an emergency backup ballot for eligible overseas citizen voters who did not receive a state-specific absentee ballot in time to cast their vote.
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