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A Letter From Our Founder

Dear Reader,

When I left the United States on a temporary work assignment 30 years ago, I had no idea that along with my luggage, I carried my right to vote in U.S. elections.

As “temporary” became long-term, I established residency in my new host country. I watched from overseas as the U.S. went through the Oklahoma City bombing and Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and was forced to admit to myself that I knew next to nothing of how our government worked. If it was puzzling to the people around me that, as a United States citizen, I was unable to lend perspective to the events ensuing in my own country, they were kind enough not to show their disappointment.

Indeed, I had no idea that citizens abroad might be considered unofficial diplomats of their country at times of international or domestic crises. It took watching the Twin Towers fall from a continent away while holding a newborn baby in my arms to shake me from my complacency. There could be no more observing our democracy from afar and hoping for the best; it was time to participate.

Figuring out how to vote as an American citizen while working and living abroad was the first step. I remember being handed a blurry, sepia-print form on postcard stock, along with a 500-page reference book of instructions and addresses, and thinking, “What?! Aren’t we a modern country?”

That was the moment I discovered that, from the perspective of voting, we were decidedly not modern. So I set to work creating Overseas Vote Foundation.

Along the way, I was honored to meet a few of the “greats” of the overseas voting world.

  • My first introduction was to Andy Sundberg, the notoriously brilliant founder of American Citizens Abroad (ACA), a leading advocacy organization working to improve the rights of overseas Americans. His excitement about the idea of Overseas Vote was palpable. He simply said, “Go. Go to Washington. They will love you.” He was right about the first part – I would need to go to Washington to get the full flavor of what I was trying to do, and to understand the context within which I’d need to work. (As for the second part, I’m not so sure, haha.)

  • Later, I met Lucy Laederich, a champion of FAWCO, dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls around the globe, a true mentor who worked tirelessly to establish the Americans Abroad Caucus in Congress, to promote overseas voting rights, and to build the relationship between overseas Americans and their Congressional Representatives.

  • I did not have the good fortune to meet Phyllis Michaux of the American Association of Residents Overseas (AARO), known for spearheading the campaign to move the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Rights Act of 1976 through Congress. But her legend lives on through AARO’s top flight team who, together with ACA and FAWCO, established Overseas Americans Week, an annual, week-long, face-to-face campaign to bring the issues of overseas Americans directly to the doors of U.S. government agencies and representatives in DC. [See latest OAW report]

These organizations continue today and through them, I’ve met some of the most remarkable and inspiring people I’ve ever known. Jackie Bugnion, Dorothy Van Schooneveld, Roland Crim, Mary-Louise Serrato, Mary Stewart Burgher, John Fredenberger, and Kathleen De Carbuccia, among many others, have graced me with their deep knowledge and enthusiasm for pursuing every angle of overseas voting. They lead the way; I followed with a new idea.

Coming from a career in the software industry, it’s no surprise that I reconfigured the original reference book and postcard form as an application, and became the first person to put the process of registering and requesting an overseas absentee ballot, as well as the emergency write-in ballot, online.

Of course the work of making a voter services website is not finished the day the site goes live. As President and CEO of Overseas Vote, I remain in awe of the people around me who have joined this cause to make overseas voting easy and ubiquitous. Not a day goes by when the team isn’t working to keep the Overseas Vote site and services running, to answer voter questions, and to make sure the information we provide online is accurate and up to date.

Twenty years on, Overseas Vote continues to thrive, as the need for a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that provides voter services and election information to the millions of American citizens living, working, serving their country, studying, or traveling across the globe continues unabated.

The site you see today marks at least the sixth iteration of Overseas Vote, and one that I consider a major transition. The site no longer relies on the “moving parts” software and services that comprised it in the past. These tools and information now “live” with our parent organization under the U.S. Vote Foundation brand, which presents a website with a super-set of services for all voter types: U.S. domestic, overseas, and military.

With this latest iteration of Overseas Vote, we return to the principle on which we founded the original site: Do one thing well. That one thing is to convey the message that, if you’re an American abroad, temporarily or indefinitely, you carry your right to vote in your pocket. The voting process is simple, your questions can be answered and, as a citizen, you owe it to your country to cast your ballot and make your voice heard.

Happy Voting,

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat
President and CEO
U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote

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Overseas Vote is redirecting you to our parent site, U.S. Vote Foundation.

U.S. Vote Foundation offers complete voter services to all voter types including voters abroad and uniformed services voters and their families.

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