The Hidden American “Never Resided” Voter

Are you an American born abroad – a US citizen despite the fact that you never lived in the US? And does that mean you can cast a ballot in US elections? The answer is yes for some of you, and no, for others. How can that be?

A new policy brief from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) clarifies how state laws affect the voting eligibility of Americans who were born abroad but have never resided in the United States.  FVAP refers to members of this unique group as “never resided” voters. In 2016, they seem to have become a vocal group – voicing their complaints in writing to the FVAP, the Pentagon agency whose mission it is to implement the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

A key factor for determining an overseas citizens’ voting eligibility is whether they meet the residency requirements of the state in which they are seeking to vote. For a “never resided” voter, their “Voting Address” is determined by their parent’s last address in the US.  If their parents are from two different states, then the “never resided” voter can choose in which state they wish to vote. Imagine the decision if one parent’s last address was in Nevada and the other’s in Florida. FVAP exposes that in this case, the decision is actually made for the voter, because Nevada accepts a “never resided” voter, and Florida does not.

The gross inequities across the states on this issue of whether “never resided” voters can vote are made plain in the policy brief. Thirty-six number of states allows these voters to cast ballots. What about the others? In their policy brief, FVAP highlights that "....many of the never resided citizens, or their family members, who received the unfortunate news that they would not be allowed to vote in the election felt very passionately about their rights to vote and did not fully understand the process." Furthermore, the brief points out that this contingent of "never resided" voters will continue to increase as an additional 3.1M Americans born overseas attain voting age.

FVAP cannot mandate that states who do not allow "never resided" citizens to vote pass laws to accomodate these voters, however, this new policy brief is an important step in a forward direction. U.S. Vote Foundation applauds this brief and the communication and discussion it inspires. Broadening our collective understanding of this issue is in itself, some measure of progress. State election officials and legislators need this type of background to inform their electoral reform efforts.

As of February 28, 2017, the following states allow these citizens, who are 18 years or older and were born abroad, but have never resided in the United States, to vote absentee under the protections of UOCAVA:

Alaska - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Alaska is eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.

Arizona - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last registered to vote in Arizona is eligible to vote in Arizona.

California - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in California is eligible to vote in California as long as he or she has not registered or voted in another State.

Colorado - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent, legal guardian, spouse or civil union partner that was last domiciled in Colorado is eligible to vote in Colorado.

Connecticut - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Connecticut is eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.

Delaware - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Delaware is eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.

District of Columbia- A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in the District of Columbia is eligible to vote in District of Columbia.

Georgia - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last registered in Georgia is eligible to vote in Georgia.

Hawaii - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Hawaii is eligible to vote in Hawaii.

Illinois - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has an Active Duty parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled  in Illinois is eligible to vote in Illinois.

Iowa - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Iowa is eligible to vote in Iowa.

Kansas - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Kansas is eligible to vote in Kansas.

Kentucky - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Kentucky is eligible to vote in Kentucky.

Maine- A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Maine is eligible to vote in Maine.

Massachusetts - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Massachusetts is eligible to vote in Massachusetts.

Michigan - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent, legal guardian or spouse that was last domiciled in Michigan is eligible to vote in Michigan as long as he or she has not registered or voted in another State.

Minnesota - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Minnesota is eligible to vote as a "federal voter" and may vote for federal offices only.

Nebraska - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent that was last registered in Nebraska is eligible to vote in Nebraska as long as he or she has not registered or voted in another State.

Nevada - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Nevada is eligible to vote in Nevada as long as he or she has not registered or voted in another State.

New Hampshire - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in New Hampshire is eligible to vote in New Hampshire.

New Jersey – A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent, legal guardian, spouse, partner in a civil union, or domestic partner that was last domiciled in New Jersey is eligible to vote as an overseas federal election voter and may vote for federal offices only.

New Mexico - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in New Mexico is eligible to vote in New Mexico.

New York - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in New York is eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.

North Carolina - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in North Carolina is eligible to vote in North Carolina.

North Dakota - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in North Dakota is eligible to vote in North Dakota.

Ohio - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Ohio is eligible to vote in Ohio.

Oklahoma - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Oklahoma is eligible to vote in Oklahoma.

Oregon - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. is eligible to vote if they intend to reside in Oregon, have a parent, legal guardian, or spouse that is a military or overseas voter under Oregon law, and that parent, legal guardian, or spouse last resided in Oregon.

Rhode Island - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Rhode Island is eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.

South Carolina - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in South Carolina is eligible to vote in South Carolina.

South Dakota - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent, legal guardian or spouse that was last domiciled in South Dakota is eligible vote in South Dakota as long as he or she has not registered or voted in another State.

Tennessee - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Tennessee is eligible to vote in Tennessee.

Vermont - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Vermont is eligible to vote in Vermont.

Virginia - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Virginia is eligible to vote in Virginia as long as he or she has not registered or voted in another State.

Washington - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Washington is eligible to vote in Washington.

West Virginia - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in West Virginia is eligible to vote in West Virginia.

Wisconsin - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Wisconsin is eligible to vote as a federal voter and may vote for federal offices only.

Wyoming - A U.S. citizen who has never resided in the U.S. and has a parent or legal guardian that was last domiciled in Wyoming is eligible to vote in Wyoming.

Some States allow voting in Federal Elections and others in Federal and State Elections.  Voting for candidates for Federal offices does not affect your Federal or State tax liability. Voting for candidates for State or local offices could affect your State income tax liability depending on the laws of your State. If you are concerned how your response may affect your State tax status, consult legal counsel, a U.S. tax advisor or your State tax authorities. 

Note: you are never required to vote for all races listed on the ballot you receive. If you receive a full ballot with Federal, State and local elections listed, you can choose to cast your vote in only the Federal races. If you are indefinitely overseas, with no current plans to return, US and Overseas Vote recommend you stick to voting at the Federal level (President, Vice President, US House of Representatives and US Senate) only.

Ready to register to vote from overseas, need information regarding your state’s deadline, or have a question? US Vote and Overseas Vote are here to help you.  

This article was co-authored by Andee Goldman, Overseas Vote Outreach and Social Media Volunteer and Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO, U.S. Vote Foundation.