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Diplovoter: Silk Stockings and Powdered Wigs in the Dubai Desert

This inaugural post in a new series on overseas voting is by Peter Neisuler, a career diplomat who has worked in the U. S. diplomatic service for over 15 years. In addition to his official duties, Peter, his fellow-diplomat wife Mariana Neisuler, and their children are all volunteers for U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and Overseas Vote. Their views are presented in a personal and non-partisan capacity and do not represent those of the U.S. Department of State. In Peter's words: "This is the first in a series of blogs about how our experiences serving the U.S. abroad have shown us how important it is to vote. We''ll be writing about our experiences in Dubai, Macedonia, Russia, and Jordan."

Diplovoter: Silk Stockings and Powdered Wigs in the Dubai Desert

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has a strange climate. Its glimmering skyscrapers and malls rise on the desert sand, their air conditioning a welcome relief from the pitiless heat – which gets well over 100 degrees for much of the year. Worse yet, because it’s next to the sea, it’s humid – but never rains. Probably not a great place for the 18th-century fashion trend of powdered wigs and silk stockings to take hold…Or is it?

As a junior officer in the U.S. Foreign Service in Dubai about 15 years ago, I got an unusual request from an Emirati friend in the Ministry of Education: could I find and send him a picture of the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia? As Americans, we’ve seen images of the event in our history books with the silly-looking 18th-century clothing adorning the otherwise gravely serious representatives.

Much ado about mail voting

Why we shouldn’t fear an all-mail voting pandemic

by Gavin Thompson Weise, Election Data Manager, U.S. Foundation

The Wisconsin primary held earlier this month has shown us that in-person voting right now is impractical, if not downright dangerous. Mail voting, meanwhile, is offering an attractive solution to a very sticky problem – how to complete the 2020 primaries and general election without major health risks. Not surprisingly, academicians, voting advocates, and of course, politicians, have all jumped into the discourse.

For voting rights advocates, it is an unprecedented moment to push forward an important agenda issue, an opportunity to expand enfranchisement and improve turnout. Opponents of mail voting have been quick to point out the risks of voter fraud, although with underwhelming evidence. Republican candidates, including President Trump, have expressed concerns about the GOP’s chances if the electorate votes predominantly by mail. But there is again little evidence to support such a claim. According to Richard Hasen, law professor at the University of California – Irvine and author of the Election Law Blog, Republicans and Democrats alike benefit from by mail voting “Republicans have long enjoyed the convenience of vote by mail”, says Hasen. “Heavily Republican Utah uses all mail elections and regularly elects Republican legislators. Voters across the political spectrum like the option of vote by mail.”

Every Voter Deserves Safe and Secure Ballot Access

U.S. Vote Foundation Launches Action Campaign - Calls on Voters to Speak Out About Access to Vote-by-Mail Ballots

No one is untouched by the current public health crisis. No one knows how long this will go on, or how it might transform itself and us. Each one of us, everyday, is personally faced with our challenge and responsibility to carrry on and to plan ahead.

But we do know that in the face of this crisis, Election Day 2020 is coming. What might seem eons away for some, is tomorrow for those who must prepare for it. We already know, that to make it safe to vote, we all need the option of a paper ballot that we can complete in our own home and mail back securely.

The amount of money allocated in the Phase III Stimulus Package to election preparednes in the face of this crisis was a fraction of what is needed. Tremendous time and effort is required to bolster the absentee vote-by-mail ballot processes around the country for what may be the largest General Election of our time. Preparations include defining new policies, purchasing equipment, printing, and increasing human resources, among other things. In a normal situation, what our election administrators are being asked to do this year would be done over five years.

This means - It's Time for Action.

Socially Distant Elections

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increase across the country, lawmakers are scrambling to provide voters safe and effective means to cast their ballots in the 2020 primaries

by Gavin Thompson Weise, Election Data Manager, U.S. Vote Foundation

A quick internet search for “safety and elections” yields page after page of articles on cybersecurity, foreign agents and congressional investigations. The past weeks have, however, brought to light a new vulnerability of our election infrastructure – something far less sinister but more terrifying, and in many ways more difficult to defeat.

Coronavirus, or COVID-19 has already affected state and local elections, as well as the 2020 presidential preference primary contests. It has changed and will continue to change, in some ways maybe forever, our approach to voting in the US. In response, election officials and lawmakers across states have resorted to a number of policy options and practices to try and ensure a safe environment for voters and the workers who make elections happen.

This article looks at what these options currently are, and what steps are likely yet to come.

Senate Introduces No-Excuse Vote-by-Mail Bill to Address Pandemics and Disasters

On March 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Wyden (D-OR) introduced Senate Bill 3529, the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020. [US Vote Bill Summary] [View/Download SB 3529]

The bill intends to provide a timely and "commonsense solution" to our ability to conduct the 2020 and future elections in the face of pandemics, emergencies and increasing natural disasters. U.S. Vote Foundation is pleased to see this action as a response to what our Foundation has called in our recent statement calling for broadened vote-by-mail services to ensure voters the ability to vote safely, without threat of disease or danger of any kind.

NDEBA calls for expanded no-excuse vote-by-mail absentee balloting and early voting. It outlines a comprehensive set of actions including, ballot tracking, signature verification and "curing", as well as emergency ballot procedures for voters whose requested ballots do not arrive in time. 

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Press Releases

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020

Immediate Legislative Action is Required to Provide All Voters Access to Vote-by-Mail Ballots

WASHINGTON D.C., March 24, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020 to ensure that all voters have access to vote-by-mail and adequate early voting options in the event of natural disasters and emergencies, such as what we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 epidemic.

"As specialists in absentee vote-by-mail ballot request services, US Vote knows that to successfully expand vote-by-mail, it cannot be a last minute decision. We strongly encourage Congress to take swift and decisive action to pass this legislation and to fully fund the improvements that will be needed for the 2020 election to be a safe one for all Americans. When exercising one's right to vote threatens lives, we have a moral duty to act to protect both the voters and our democracy," said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, US Vote President and CEO. "Increased vote-by-mail volume could overwhelm election administrators unless immediate action is taken and they are given time to prepare."

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Mandate a Nationwide “No Excuse” Vote-by-Mail Option Across All States for 2020 Elections

Nationwide Response to Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Should Include Uniform Election Law Across All States to Allow All Voters to Request Vote-by-Mail Ballots without an Excuse

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to issue a requirement that all states remove any and all barriers to vote-by-mail/absentee ballot request across all states at all levels, federal, state and municipal, for all 2020 elections including primaries, special, runoff and general elections.

“Ensuring voters can vote from home is a responsible and forward-thinking policy action that Congress should include in its response to the current public health situation,” said Michael Steele, Chairman of US Vote and its Overseas Vote initiative. “It is impossible for voters to predict whether they will be healthy and able to vote in-person. They should be assured they can vote safely with an absentee vote-by-mail ballot.”

U.S. Vote Foundation Releases 2018 Post Election Summary Report


The 2018 Election Day Voter Experience Survey conducted by U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) together with its Overseas Vote initiative from November 6-12, 2018, provides insight into 5,100 American voters’ experiences of casting a ballot (or not) through five different voting methods, both domestic and overseas; key points are presented here.

217,411 survey invitations were sent to voters on the US Vote and Overseas Vote mailing lists on November 6, 2018 and were further promoted through social media and partner mailing lists including those of American Citizens Abroad and Democrats Abroad. No reminders were sent. Altogether, 5,100 responses were collected before the survey was closed on November 12, 2018.

U.S. Vote Foundation Announces Unprecedented Rise in 2018 Midterm Election User Activity

Website and data services have become an invaluable resource for millions of voters worldwide

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 31, 2018 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and its Overseas Vote initiative experienced a tremendous rise in user activity for the 2018 election cycle with over 1.75 million users, a stunning 10-fold increase over the 2014 midterm elections cycle.

Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO of U.S Vote Foundation and Overseas Initiative claims that “…this dramatic growth is a result of the tremendous press coverage and the growing awareness of voting rights and resources, particularly for US citizens overseas.”

Overall, US Vote’s technology supported 1.9 million sessions and 6.9 million page-views for this 2018 election.

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