Americans living overseas could tilt the 2020 election – if only they voted

By Monica Duffy Toft
Originally published in The Conversation

U.S. citizens who live abroad are a largely untapped voter pool big enough to decide the presidency.

In the 2000 contested presidential election, Republican candidate George W. Bush’s campaign relied on 680 overseas military ballots to tilt Florida in Bush’s favor

According to The New York Times, that was part of the Republicans’ strategy to tally as many overseas ballots as possible in counties that favored Bush – even those without postmarks or validated signatures. In Florida counties that favored Al Gore, they worked to disqualify overseas ballots. 

Bush beat Gore by 537 votes

Just under 5 million U.S. citizens live abroad, serving in the military and embassies or just living in another country. In 2018 an estimated 2.9 million of them were of voting age, according to a 2018 Federal Voting Assistance Program report – more than the population of Rhode Island, Delaware and Wyoming combined.

As a political scientist who studies demographics and politics, I have observed how different voting blocs, even small ones, can affect the outcome of elections. Three million people is more than enough people to decide a presidential or congressional race with narrow margins. 

To do that, though, Americans who live abroad would have to actually vote.


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