Facts & Research
WE COUNT ON OUR SERVICE MEMBERS TO DEFEND OUR NATION, SO WE OWE IT TO THEM TO COUNT THEIR BALLOTS.
Every election, active-duty troops and their families cast their ballots from wherever they are stationed, all across the globe.
Hundreds of thousands of those votes are cast by mail. With long distances to travel and delayed postal service, it takes time for those ballots to get back to their home states.
This year, unlike in previous elections, we may not know the results on November 3rd due to the unprecedented amount of people voting absentee and delayed postal service.
In addition, a majority of states count overseas ballots that arrive after Election Day, so long as they were sent before the polls close. On Election Night, some of these ballots will likely still be in transit.
That’s why it’s imperative we count service members ballots before we call the election.
We need to ensure our service members and their families are allowed to participate in our elections, no matter where in the world they are. Their voices deserve to be heard.
Service members stationed overseas rely on absentee voting options.
- Federal law requires states to provide special voting rights for service members and their families stationed away from home. Since 2009, states have also been required to provide electronic transmission options for blank ballots, but at least 20 states require most overseas voters to mail their ballots back.
- In 2018, two-thirds of active-duty military voters stationed away from home cast an absentee ballot.
- 79% of uniformed service members who voted returned their ballots by mail in the 2018 general election, compared to 61% of overseas civilians.
Hundreds of thousands of military absentee votes were cast in 2016.
- The presidential election this year will likely see high turnout across the board, including among military and overseas voters. In 2016, more than 252,000 uniformed service members stationed away from home, and their families, cast a ballot, as reported in the US Election Assistance Commission’s 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey.
The majority of states count military ballots arriving after Election Day.
- The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) provides assistance to service members stationed away from home, their families, and overseas civilians, and tracks ballot request and return deadlines by state.
- At present, in 28 states plus the District of Columbia, military ballots cast from outside the country are counted after Election Day, so long as they are sent before the polls close.
The amount of time states allow for overseas ballots to arrive varies.
- Some states accept military ballots later than others. South Carolina, for example, counts ballots received by the second day after the election, while Washington will count overseas military ballots received within 20 days of a general election, so long as they are sent before the close of polls on Election Day.
- The states counting military votes after Election Day represent 392 electoral votes, far more than the 270 required to win the presidency.
- States allowing overseas ballots to arrive a week after Election Day, or later, still account for more than half of the Electoral College.
American troops have cast absentee ballots for over two centuries.
- There is a long and storied history of service members participating in the elections they were defending by casting ballots absentee: either close to home or across the globe. According to the National Postal Museum, members of the military voted absentee as early as the War of 1812.
- Union troops in the Civil War were the first group in American history to vote by mail in significant numbers.
In the 2016 general election, uniformed service members stationed away from home and their families cast more than 250,000 votes. (US Election Assistance Commission)
79% of uniformed service members who voted returned their ballots by mail in the 2018 general election, compared to 61% of overseas civilians. (US Election Assistance Commission)
“The average transit time to voting centers in the United States — whether ballots are sent from giant citylike bases in Germany or tiny outposts in the Syrian desert — should be six days” (The Washington Post)
The 28 states plus DC that count military votes that arrive after Election Day account for more than a majority of votes in the Electoral College. (See FVAP state-by-state resources and a comparison across states.)
“More than 20 states require most overseas voters to return their ballots by mail, including Texas and New York.” (The New York Times)