On this July 4th weekend, as Americans back home commemorate our Declaration of Independence from British rule in July 1776, marking the first steps towards the formation of our democracy, I'd like us all to spend a few minutes thinking about a few other great moments in American democracy.
1787 - Adoption of the Constitution
1789 - Adoption of the Bill of Rights
1870 - Adoption of the 15th Amendment, preventing racial discrimination in voting
1920 - Adoption of the 19th Amendment, granting women the vote
1965 - Passage of the Voting Rights Act finally ended discriminatory voting rules that had been preventing African Americans from voting in the South
And finally, a less well known but equally important step forward in coting freedoms was the passage in 1975 of the Overseas Citizens Absentee Ballot Act. This law, and others similar, helped to clarify that US Citizens living overseas have full voting rights in all Federal elections.
Like women and African Americans, Americans living abroad have in the recent past been denied the right to participate in our Democracy - both by discriminatory laws and by unfair or unclear voting procedures.
But we are American Citizens, fully entitled to our votes.
Unfortunately, too many Americans Abroad aren't aware of their right to vote, or find it difficult to register and vote. Many assume that if they were registered once they will get their ballot in future years (not true, you must request your ballot in each election cycle), or that if they vote they will be liable for state taxes (not true, there is no connection between taxation and voting).
Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way. The www.votefromabroad.org makes it easy for all Americans abroad to cast their ballots. Just fill out the form online, print out the resulting document, and post it to the address it gives you.
So please, in honor of our Democracy, on this 4th of July weekend, make sure you are registered to vote. And please send this information on to at least 5 other Americans overseas.
Happy Independence Day!
And as a special Holiday treat, check this out - the songs of all 50 States: