Potential Challenges to Voting
The umbrella term, UOCAVA voter, encapsulates people in many different situations. The needs of a voter in a country with little infrastructure are different than the needs of a voter with convenient access to a post office. Additionally, individual voters may feel less connected to their home jurisdiction the longer they live abroad, and thus their motivation to vote may not be the same as for stateside voters. Some of the hurdles for assisting UOCAVA voters are "fixable" with targeted policies, while disconnection to a stateside election is difficult to address with policy.
We can’t lose sight that our military and overseas voters are busy with their lives and the process needs to be as seamless as possible…Customer service is key. Whether it is our military serving away from home or Americans residing overseas, this separation creates a vacuum of information. We always encourage election officials to offer positive reinforcement and communication back to the voter: 'Yes, we received your application! Yes, we received your ballot! Yes, your ballot was counted!
David Beirne, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program
Because UOCAVA voters live all across the globe, they are more likely to miss deadlines due to the time it takes for mail to transit both to and from the states. In fact, 26% of UOCAVA voters cited the late arrival of their absentee ballots as the reason for not completing the process. Mail delivery schedules vary by country, so relying on a mailed ballot to arrive in time may be risky.
Physical Location and Infrastructure
Not all UOCAVA voters are in a place with easy access to a post office or even the internet. Voters in less developed locations face physical and logistical obstacles, and are therefore less likely to receive, fill out and successfully submit their ballots.
UOCAVA voters face unique challenges, particularly because voting overseas often requires more planning and effort than voting stateside. For voters who receive their ballots electronically (an option in all states—and some states allow electronic return, too), technological savvy is required, as well. According to FVAP, 37% of UOCAVA voters who received their ballots did not complete the process because it was too complicated. In general, FVAP found younger voters were more likely to have trouble completing their ballot, compared to voters aged 35-64.
Interest in the Election
Many eligible UOCAVA voters have lived overseas for years, and approximately 47% of UOCAVA registered voters have lived abroad for more than 12 years. Living overseas generally, especially for an extended period, may make a UOCAVA voter feel disconnected from an election outcome and therefore less likely to vote. In fact, 31% of UOCAVA voters report a disinterest in voting.