Law requires states provide certain rights to out-of-country voters

Published 7:46 pm Friday, December 11, 2015

Some Beaufort County residents who are (or will be) out of the country during the 2016 federal primaries and elections and meet certain requirements will be able to vote in those primaries and elections.

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act requires states to allow certain voters who are absent from their county of residence to have special rights that provide an expedited means for them to register and vote by mail-in absentee ballot. In order to qualify under the provisions of UOCAVA in this state, a voter must be a legal resident of North Carolina. Citizens covered by UOCAVA include:

• a member of the active or reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard who is on active duty;

• a member of the U.S. Merchant Marine, the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service or the commissioned corps of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States;

• a member of the National Guard or state militia unit who is on activated status;

• a spouse or dependent of a uniformed services member as listed above;

• U.S. citizens residing outside the United States.

“There is no question that American military personnel and other overseas citizens can face significant problems in trying to exercise their right to vote,” wrote Hans A. von Spakovsky, an attorney at the U.S. Justice Department, in the conclusion of a paper he prepared for the Federalist Society for Law ad Public Policy Studies. “The inherit problems in overseas mail delivery and associated delays are often difficult to overcome. UOCAVA does provide protections for such voters but it is not a panacea. There are many steps that state and local election officials can take to make this process easier and more efficient. It is up to state legislators and election administrators to ensure that the absentee voting process is made as efficient as possible for all such voters.”

That paper may be viewed by visiting a specific section of the Federal Elections Commission’s website:…/article002.pdf.

The Beaufort County Board of Elections’ website — — includes the UOCAVA election notice for the March 15, 2016, presidential primary in Beaufort County. Updated notices will be posted after the filing period ends Dec. 21 and after presidential candidates are named for North Carolina on Jan. 5, 2016, according to the website.

To view the notice, go to the Beaufort County Board of Education’s website, click on the “UOCAVA Election Notice” heading (“Our Mission, Your Vote” icon), then click on the “Downloads & Data” PDF icon. Voters who qualify under UOCAVA guidelines have the choice of either requesting a mail-in absentee ballot the same way as other registered voters, or they can apply to register and/or vote through special programs for military and overseas voters as described below.

For more information about UOCAVA voters, visit this website page: That page provides information about options for U.S. military personnel or citizens who are out of the country and information about requesting and submitting absentee ballots.

An amendment to UOCAVA requires states to send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before federal elections. UOCAVA does not apply to non-federal elections, although some states and territories also allow citizens covered by the UOCAVA to register and vote in state and local elections as well.


For additional information about UOCAVA, visit








About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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