updated 9:24 PM CEST, Sep 29, 2020

American Citizens Abroad unveils program to help U.S. expat voice get heard in Washington

The American Citizens Abroad, the non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Rockville, Maryland that exists to help Americans who live overseas, has unveiled an online tool it says is designed to make it easier for American expats to make their voices heard in Washington, ahead of this November’s election.

The new tool, which the ACA calls its “Voice Your Vote" write-in facility, basically takes keen-to-have-their-voice-heard expat voters through the various steps they would need to go through if they wanted to make their voice heard in Washington – but spares them the hassle of having to try to find their way themselves. 

The new ACA write-in facility follows on from an earlier ACA write-in campaign, unveiled last September and still running, called Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad: An Idea Worth Fighting For, which, as reported, was aimed at providing an easy way for American expats around the world to reach out directly to their own Congressional representatives as well as the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee in order to urge them to "hold hearings on the wide range of tax compliance issues facing U.S. citizens living and working overseas". The organization said it anticipates adding additional write-in campaign facilities in the months ahead. 

Detailed instructions

To make use of the ACA's new Voice Your Vote facility, overseas voters must first go to a page on the ACA's website, www.americansabroad.org/voice-your-vote-2020-campaign, and follow the instructions. These are written in such a way that even someone fairly new to the standard technical obstacle course that Americans resident abroad face whenever they try to do anything official involving the U.S. government will have no trouble getting to the end. 

For example, someone going to the site is told that in order to submit their message, they will need to provide "your U.S. voting address", which the ACA then goes on to explain is "the address where you last lived at in the United States, regardless of whether or not you have any current ties to this address".

Those who aren't sure what their U.S. voting address is are directed to another ACA page that will help them get past this initial stage of their quest. 

The instructions then proceed to take the keen-to-have-their-voice-heard voter through the necessary steps that eventually will lead to their being able to fill in a box below the words: "My Vote for You Depends on Your Support of My Issues". 

"This email will be delivered to 2 recipients," the instructions conclude, before noting that the two recipients are, as specified below: 

Joe Biden Donald Trump

After filling in the box, the keen-to-have-their-voice-heard voter clicks on a red box that says "Take Action - Click Here to Submit Your Email!"

The ACA's unveiling of its new Voice Your Vote feature comes as the candidates for office this November – not just presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but those looking to fill one of 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and 35 out of 100 seats in the Senate – head into the final five months of the 2020 election campaign. Thus far, neither presidential candidate is known to have mentioned any expat issues specifically, nor have they featured much if at all in any congressional candidates' campaign literature or speeches. 

'Easier way to communicate
with candidates'

ACA executive director Marylouise Serrato noted that while the organization in the past had made a point of campaigning to remind American expats "of the importance of voting", the new online tool "[does] that part of the job" of getting information about the candidates for those interested in doing more than just casting a vote.

"ACA has given [expats] an easy way to communicate with those running for office," she said.

We [are] giving citizens the tools to speak with to those running for office." 

Added ACA voting director Roland Crim: "Campaigns have traditionally been seen as a one-way flow of information to targeted voters, and this should not be the norm.

"In a better world, voter sentiment impacts a candidate’s positions throughout the campaign, and the more channels we offer for the expression of popular sentiment, the better.”

ACA chairman Jonathan Lachowitz, who is also founder of Lexington, Massachusetts-based White Lighthouse Investment Management, pointed out that the 5 million to 6 million Americans the ACA estimates are currently living outside the U.S. represents a sizeable voting bloc, and one that candidates running for office and for re-election should be aware of.

To read more about ACA's research into the American expatriate population, which was conducted in 2017 in order to better understand the impact a move on the part of the U.S. to a residence-based tax regime would have, click here.

The ACA was founded in 1978 in Geneva, Switzerland, and moved its headquarters to the U.S. in 2012.