Americans Helping Americans Abroad

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  • 1 "Act II" of the MOVE Act
  • 2 The Trump Executive Order: its effects on immigration
  • 3 U.S. Passport Renewal: Dilly-dallying Unwise!
  • 4 AARO Members Talk FATCA with the AAPA
  • 5 The overseas voter: Can (s)he make a difference?
  • 6 Here for the Long Haul - Investment Options for Americans Overseas
  • 7 VIDEO: AARO Presidential Debate (AARO members only)
  • 8 AARO Presidential Debate Report
  • 9 Goals at Overseas Americans Week in 2016
  • "Act II" of the MOVE Act

    The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act was signed into law in October 2009.  It was landmark election reform legislation for which AARO and its partner organizations advocated actively, and represented great progress for overseas voters, among others.  MOVE
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  • The Trump Executive Order: its effects on immigration

    What we know now: The Executive Order signed on Friday, 27 January, 2017, is designed to at least temporarily (90 days) close US borders to those carrying passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, due to terrorist concerns.
    Read More
  • U.S. Passport Renewal: Dilly-dallying Unwise!

    Apply for your passport well ahead of planned travel! The State Department informs us that there has been increasingly strong demand for U.S. passports in recent years. This is true everywhere, but in addition, nearly 10 years after implementation of
    Read More
  • AARO Members Talk FATCA with the AAPA

    In May, AARO members John Fredenberger, Delphine Brett-Ziller, and Lucy Laederich attended a meeting of the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris to discuss the implications of FATCA legislation on the 8.7 million Americans overseas. The attendees, many of whom are
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  • The overseas voter: Can (s)he make a difference?

    The closer we get to what is projected to be a close election, the more people are turning their eyes to that other potential voting block: overseas Americans.  Generally, polls are announced as having been conducted in “x” states or
    Read More
  • Here for the Long Haul - Investment Options for Americans Overseas

    On May 18, London & Capital presented an information meeting on investment options we Americans have when we live abroad. Daniel Freedman, head of the US Family Office at London & Capital, moderated the event. Tony McGloughlin, director at London
    Read More
  • VIDEO: AARO Presidential Debate (AARO members only)

    On October 19, AARO hosted a debate with an insider perspective on the 2016 presidential election and where the parties would like to have us go in the next four years. Featuring Joe Smallhoover* (Democrat), Ned Wiley** (Libertarian) and George
    Read More
  • AARO Presidential Debate Report

    *Please note that this is a summary of the debate, and the panelists’ responses may be edited or slightly summarized for clarity. For a video recording of the event, please click here. The room at Reid Hall was packed on
    Read More
  • Goals at Overseas Americans Week in 2016

    Over the years, U.S. legislation has made it increasingly difficult for Americans to live and work overseas. Our organizations urge Congress and the Administration to review and rethink certain policies that restrict the effectiveness of the estimated 8.7 million overseas
    Read More

The Buzz

See the latest trending topics from AARO’s Twitter feed and the “unofficial” AARO Facebook discussion forum: what Americans overseas are talking about today.

Perspectives from Abroad

AARO members worldwide share stories and perspectives from their host countries: economic analysis, human interest, challenges and solutions.

Americans Abroad Caucus

The Caucus groups legislators who understand and care about their overseas constituents. AARO is proud to work with these Members of Congress.

  • AARO Member Benefits

    In addition to its core activity of advocacy on behalf of the almost 9 million Americans living and working abroad, AARO offers benefits to members that can make their life abroad easier and more interesting!
    Read More
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AARO Profiles

Meet AARO volunteers, issue experts and members in distant countries: people you might not otherwise meet but who are central to AARO's mission!

Which American Kids Don't Have the Right to Vote? Ours!

From Overseas Vote Foundation
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(Please note that this article has been updated and that, as indicated below, there are now 23 states plus the District of Columbia where American children born abroad can vote.)

When I go grocery shopping, I hit the ethnic food aisle for peanut butter. My 10-year-old is reading “King George: What Was His Problem?” on top of memorizing the Bourbon kings. And of course we celebrate Thanksgiving even though it's near impossible to find a nice fat turkey in France in November.

Sound familiar? Most expat parents go to a lot of trouble – and expense – to keep their families connected to the US: holidays, international schools, yearly pilgrimages to stateside relatives.

If your child was born overseas, then you also almost certainly braved the paperwork to provide your newborn darling with an American passport and Social Security number.

When these foreign-born American citizens overseas turn 18, they will need to file US taxes and sons will be expected to register with the Selective Service. But a lot of them won't be able to vote.

Surprised? You're not alone. At Overseas Vote Foundation, we get a regular influx of questions to our Voter Help Desk from parents who want to help their dual-national or expat 18-year-old exercise their right to vote. They’re often bitterly disappointed when we tell them that said 18-year-old doesn't have a right to vote.

What's up with that?

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act guarantees the right to vote in federal elections for American citizens living temporarily or permanently abroad, doesn’t it?

Yes. But the tricky part is in Section 107, “Definitions”. An overseas voter is:

  1. an absent uniformed services voter who, by reason of active duty or service is absent from the United States on the date of the election involved;
  2. a person who resides outside the United States and is qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States; or
  3. a person who resides outside the United States and (but for such residence) would be qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States.

But what if the person in question has never been domiciled in a state? UOCAVA doesn’t cover them. The right to vote is not guaranteed by the Constitution; it is a “gift” of the states. If you move back to any state: problem solved.

But don’t think that having gone back to see Grandma every summer counts; every state has different registration requirements but coming through on vacation, even long ones, doesn’t meet them.

Now, there are 16 states that have already been convinced of the unfairness of this and allow children born overseas to register using one of their American parents registration address: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.  Editor's note: since this article was written a number of states have joined this list; as of August 2012, 23 states and DC allow these children to vote.  To the above list, you can now add: Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Washington, in addition to the District of Columbia.

And there are lot of foreign-born voters who have registered from overseas and their election official has either let it pass or not noticed. But, technically, it’s against the rules in the 44 other states. (No election official I contacted seemed very sure of the answer to this question, but it would appear that children born in the states but raised overseas, like mine, also fit in this category).

How many 18-year-old potential American voters are disenfranchised by this oversight? No one really knows. Hey, here’s a good idea: why don’t the Census people count Americans overseas? But that’s a different can o’ worms.

We guesstimate the number is around 200,000, a figure too small to have captured any federal legislator’s interest despite regular complaints from AARO and its allies.

Help is On the Way

Recently, a commission which, chances are, you’ve never heard of – the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) – took it upon itself to address this unintentional injustice.

The ULC is a non-profit staffed by some 300 lawyers, judges, legislators and law professors who volunteer all the time they devote to the organization. Its purpose is to draft “Uniform Laws” for legal areas that all states must govern and where the law functions more effectively and justly if all the states operate in the same way. The Commission’s best-known laws are the Uniform Commercial Code and the Uniform Gift to Minors Act.

The ULC is currently working on the Military Services and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voters Act, which would allow children born overseas to vote by using their parents’ address.

(It would also solve several other overseas electoral problems that federal legislation can’t address. More on that in future postings!)

If the Commission approves the final draft of the law, then it will be submitted for passage by each state’s individual legislatures. The law would apply only in those states where the legislature votes Yes, but it doesn’t need to be passed by all 50 to be valid.

On its current schedule, Commissioners are hoping that at least 25 states will pass the law by 2011, enfranchising tens of thousand more young Americans in time for the 2012 election.

Who Cares?

To us expat families, it’s not about how many voters are left out. And it’s not about the mechanics of voting. It’s about having our right as American citizens to transmit that citizenship to our children. And, let’s face it, citizenship without a guaranteed right to vote is second-class.

Expat or no, most Americans would agree that there should be no second-class American citizens. The 1986 UOCAVA law righted this wrong for us; let’s hope the ULC succeeds in righting it for our children.

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