Overseas Vote Foundation
Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat
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New Overseas Vote Foundation Research Identifies Five Top-Scoring States that Facilitate Participation of Overseas Voters

Study Investigates the Impact of State Laws on the Satisfaction
of Military and Civilian Voters Abroad

TORONTO - September 3, 2009 – Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) Research Director Claire Smith unveiled today the UOCAVA* State Policy Index (SPI), a new scoring tool to measure the impact of individual states’ implementation of federal overseas voting legislation. The study Smith presented identifies five states – Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, South Carolina and Kansas – as the SPI top-scorers with voting policies that are the easiest to navigate for overseas and military voters.

Smith presented the findings in a new study, “It’s in the Mail: Surveying UOCAVA Voters and Barriers to Voting”, at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association held this year in Toronto, Canada.

The Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is the federal law that sets guidelines for how the states’ should adapt absentee voting procedures and regulations to overseas participation; there is, however, enormous variance state-to-state in the implementation of these guidelines. An estimated 4.8 million eligible American voters live abroad.

Using eight registration laws and eight balloting regulations to define the core of UOCAVA legislation, the SPI rates individual states on how well their laws and procedures facilitate overseas and military voting.  Dr. Smith then tests the impact of the SPI specifically as pertains to ballot return rates, ballot acceptance rates and voter satisfaction.

The five top-scoring states in Smith’s report are: Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, South Carolina and Kansas. These states have created policies that can be quantitatively demonstrated to facilitate the UOCAVA voting processes. The five lowest-scoring states are: Alabama, Wyoming, Arkansas, New York and Nevada.

 “State-level UOCAVA legislation has a statistically significant influence on voter satisfaction,” said Smith. “But the results also demonstrate that regulations are not the only factor in a state’s ability to increase participation among UOCAVA citizens. Outreach programs and communication by local election officials are also critical.”

The report also indicates a possible link between policies and the number of ballots returned and counted.  The report states, however, that better data is needed, especially on the number of ballots cast, to confirm this hypotheses.

This report clears the path for new directions in UOCAVA research, an area where a dearth of data has been the norm. The creation of the UOCAVA State Policy Index represents a genuine advancement that will help researchers select states for case studies and inform legislators and commissions attempting to bring uniformity to UOCAVA law.

UOCAVA law is once again in the spotlight because recently proposed legislation, H.R. 1739 introduced by Representatives Maloney and Honda and S. 1415 introduced by Senators Schumer, Chambliss and Nelson (of Nebraska), would, if adopted, significantly modify the federal UOCAVA law.

The complete OVF report can be downloaded through this link:

* UOCAVA – Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act

About Overseas Vote Foundation (

Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) helps overseas and military voters participate in U.S. elections by providing public access to secure, web-based voter registration tools and services. In 2008, 4.75 million website visitors used OVF’s Internet-based voter services.

OVF also nurtures open and constructive discussion on the role and use of technology in overseas and military voting. OVF believes that when applied appropriately, the Internet and other new technologies can help overseas voters more rapidly than any other factor.

OVF is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, nonpartisan public charity incorporated in Delaware.

About Claire M. Smith

Claire M. Smith holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Notre Dame, where she specialized in comparative party and campaign finance.

Smith joined the OVF's post-election research team in January 2009. After analyzing the responses of 24,000 participating American voters, she wrote the 2008 Post Election UOCAVA Voter and Election Official Research Reports. She is charged with managing OVF's research program.

In 2005-2006, she taught as an adjunct professor of politics at the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

About the American Political Science Association (

The APSA is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 15,000 members in over 80 countries.  APSA brings together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions and occupational endeavors to expand awareness and understanding of politics.