It’s in the Mail: Surveying UOCAVA Voters and Barriers to Overseas Voting

45 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2009

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2009


One of modern democracy’s biggest challenges is the overseas voter. Current estimates indicate that there are 4 to 6 million Americans permanently or temporarily living abroad. Congress has passed several key pieces of federal legislation to facilitate overseas voting including the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) in 1986 and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. This paper investigates the success of these public policy initiatives in reaching overseas voters. Has overseas voting increased as a result of these legislative initiatives? What barriers still exist? What policy changes can be made to promote voting? This paper is divided into three sections. First, in order to capture the variance in state UOCAVA policy, I create an index to operationalize state legislation on overseas voting issues, such as electronic transmission of voting materials. Second, I adapt the variables used in traditional voter turnout studies to create hypotheses, and use data from the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) Post-Election Survey to test the hypotheses and identify variables that hinder successful voting. The results demonstrate that variable deadlines combined with postal problems often hamper voters. Furthermore, the impacts of policy are weak and outreach programs remain vitally important. Finally, I interpret these results in order to provide a better direction for future policy changes.

Keywords: voting, UOCAVA, legislation, voter satisfaction

Suggested Citation

Smith, Claire M., It’s in the Mail: Surveying UOCAVA Voters and Barriers to Overseas Voting (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Claire M. Smith (Contact Author)

Overseas Vote Foundation ( email )

4786 N. Williamsburg Blvd
Arlington, VA 22207-2836
United States


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