Voting & Representation Issues
Thirteen US states refuse to extend voting rights to persons who have never lived in the United States but are US citizens by virtue of the US citizenship of one or both parents. Despite being ineligible to vote, these overseas citizens are subject to all of the tax reporting and payment obligations incumbent upon all other United States citizens, and hence present a textbook case of taxation without representation. American Citizens Abroad favors the correction of this inequitable treatment through extension of voting rights by all US states to any overseas American having a parent previously resident in that state, irrespective of whether he or she has ever resided in the US.
ACA, Inc. favors the unhindered exercise of voting rights for eligible overseas Americans. ACA has consistently supported defensive legislation and litigants engaged in the business of assuring that this fundamental right be available without excessive bureaucracy. We favor the use of clear, simple and straightforward voting and ballot request documentation, and rigorous procedures enabling confirmation that all ballots voted were properly tabulated. See: Supreme Court Upholds ACA Position on Voting Rights
As part of ACA’s commitment to Overseas Americans’ Voting issues, ACA sits on the Advisory Board of the US Vote Foundation (www.overseasvote.org) a non-partisan, non-profit voter assistance organization dedicated to helping American citizens overseas and in the military participate in elections. Working with organizations such as US Vote Foundation insures that ACA is doing its upmost to advocate for overseas Americans voting rights. ACA also participates in the annual voting summit held in Washington, DC.
Direct Representation in Congress
US citizens living and working overseas can vote in Federal elections, and in some cases State elections however, as a group their vote which represents thier interests and concerns, is spread of 50 states and 435 Congressional districts. It is difficult therefore to get a focused attention to the communitys' issues from any one Representative. Unlike other countries who have Delegates or Representatives specifically for their exptraite citizens, the US does not even have a non-voting Representative which is afforded to America Samoa (pop. 49,710), The District of Columbia (pop.702,000), Guam (pop. 171,843), Northern Mariana Islands (pop.57,557), Puerto Rico (pop. 2.7M) and the US Virgin Islands (pop.103,347).
Representation through the Americans Abroad Caucus
Another important body representing US citizens overseas is the Americans Abroad Caucus. Founded in 2007 in the House of Representatives, this Caucus counts about 25 members at present, representing many states and all regions of the nation, from the West Coast, the Mid West, the South and the East Coast. The Caucus is co-chaired by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Maria Salazar (FL-27). ACA maintains ongoing contact with the Caucus Co-chairs and updates the Caucus on issues affecting Americans living and working overseas.
The National Taxpayer Advocate
The National Taxpayer Advocate is Your Voice at the IRS and its organiation, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Its job is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly and that you know and understand your rights. Alongside of TAS is the Taxpayer Advocate Panel (TAP) consisting of 75 volunteer members, including a represenative for US citizens living and working overseas. These volunteers gain insight from taxpayers, identify taxpayers’ issues, and make suggestions for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction.
How Are We Counted? The Problem with the numbers
The United States Government does not have a complete count of the number of Americans living and working overseas. ACA's recent research in support of Residence-based taxation (RBT) estimates the overseas US citizen community (non-military) at 4 million.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) estimated in 2018 that there were 4.8 million US citizens overseas (military and civilian) https://www.fvap.gov/info/reports-surveys/overseas-citizen-population-analysis
The US State Department calculates the current overseas Americans community at 9 Million (US State Department Chart of Statistics). The State Department calculations are based on estimates from passport applications and birth registrations at embassies and consulates, and a variety of other sources. One source is consular registration, a practice more common in high-risk countries (Columbia, Iraq) than in low risk (France, Spain) which is often used for estimating for evaucation purposes.
An inaccurate count of the community leads touching on various areas, often leading to harmful regulations and legislation because the Congress either thinks the community it larger or smaller than its actual size and does not understand the make-up of the community. ACA Global Foundation's reserach work with District Economics Group (DEG) is helping to correct the record. Fielded to help with revenue estimations for Residence-based taxation (RBT) it is providing a more accurate picture of the tax and investment make-up of Americans overseas.
Most US citizens residing abroad have not been included in the decennial US census since 1970, shortly before overseas Americans gained their right to vote in federal elections. Prior to that, varying stances had been taken over the years. An excellent report on the historical background by Karen M. Mills was published in 1997: Americans Overseas in US Censuses.
The US Census Bureau is not constitutionally mandated to count Americans abroad. Under pressure from ACA and other overseas American groups, the Census Bureau carried out an unsuccesful test enumeration in 2004 of Americans in France, Kuwait and Mexico "Counting Americans Overseas as part of the Decennial Census Would not be Cost Effective" ; and finally in September 2004,"2010 Census: Counting Americans overseas as Part of the Census Would not be Feasible."