Scott Galloway on Can I Vote from My Overseas Residence if I Live Abroad Temporarily?
If you take up residence outside of the U.S. for the short term, you can - and should - still vote in U.S. elections. Find out how balloting works based on your most recent American voting residence and why Scott Galloway thinks you should stay engaged in the American electoral process.
We are in the midst of the Remote Revolution - the pivot to remote work catalyzed by pandemic accommodations.
According to Scott Galloway in his recent book Adrift, 38% of U.S. work teams plan to work either partially or fully remotely in 2025, compared with 21% before Covid. This shift has created new flexible living opportunities for close to 20 million Americans who plan to relocate and work remotely.
One casualty of the Remote Revolution could be civic participation.
Americans who don't want to be limited to staying in one place--free range Americans, so to speak--may need encouragement to continue (or start!) casting their ballots. Those who relocate and land overseas have startlingly low voter turnout when compared with domestic voters, leaving these citizens without representation.
It’s imperative for the health of our representative democracy to know: Yes, you may be eligible to request an absentee ballot to vote in federal elections from an overseas residence if you live abroad temporarily or permanently.
You can be on the road in voter mode.
Meet Scott Galloway - a Voter Living Abroad
Scott Galloway is a professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business and a self-described serial entrepreneur, having founded nine companies. He also shares keen political, economic, and social insights by serving on several boards, hosting podcasts, and writing New York Times best selling books.
In August, Scott Galloway joined U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) for a conversation as US Vote prepared to launch the YES campaign to increase turnout for underrepresented citizens such as overseas voters. He discusses how he can vote in U.S. federal elections from his new home in London, analyzes the implications of low overseas voter turnout, and takes a shot at Guess if it’s YES.
You relocated from the U.S. to the U.K. last year, but are far from planted in one spot. How often are you traveling internationally these days?
Five years ago my wife said she wanted to live in London. I told her maybe in five years. (I thought she would forget about it.) She didn’t, and here we are.
I love it here but I travel a lot for work. I give talks at least once a month in places all over the world — from Brazil to Germany to Saudi Arabia. And I try to spend significant time in the states with my family. This summer we’re spending most of our time in the U.S. A couple weeks ago I was in California with my two sons visiting their grandfather, and this month we’re in Nantucket.
Making a plan for how to vote isn’t always top of mind for people on the move, but with more people exercising flexible living and working options as you are, this planning becomes paramount.
Do you expect your relocation to the U. K. to be temporary or permanent? Does the anticipated length of your residency affect your motivation to vote in U.S. elections?
I expect we won’t be in Europe permanently. But it will be at least a few more years before we move back.
Living in Europe hasn’t affected my feelings about voting in the U.S. in the sense that I still want to remain maximally involved. Most of my work revolves around economic and technological trends developing in the U.S. As I maintain my position as an American professional and academic, I consider it even more important that I show up as an American citizen. I will continue to vote in every U.S. election, absentee or not.
The U.K. is second only to Canada as the location with the most adult U.S. citizens living abroad, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). There are close to 3 million U.S. citizens abroad who, like you, can vote by absentee ballot.
However, only 7.8% did so in the last presidential election. Overseas voters were under-represented with a whopping 71.4% turnout gap when compared with domestic voters in 2020.
What personal and societal costs jump out at you when you process these turnout statistics? Could we see a chart on this topic in a sequel to Adrift?
It’s a concerning statistic, and I’m surprised to hear it. I think a couple things are going on.
First, I think many people feel when they leave the country to live somewhere else that U.S. policy decisions no longer affect them — or at least, affect them less than they used to. What people forget, however, is how long-term the effects of these elections are.
A few hundred thousand votes in a couple swing states in 2016 ultimately determined the trajectory of our justice system, from Roe v. Wade to gay rights — decisions that will have lasting effects on the lives of our children should they live in the U.S. And ultimately, even if they don’t, because the U.S. has an outsized impact on every other country through finance, culture, and politics. I’m sure many non-U.S. citizens would love an opportunity to shape U.S. policy.
The second issue is a lack of clarity about absentee voting. The process of voting overseas is considered more complicated, and probably some people don’t realize it is possible. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I would think that this is an area where we’ll see some impact from Covid, which made absentee voting more common and top of mind.
Either way, voting is fundamental to participating in our democratic system, and I hope we can get those numbers up for overseas citizens whose votes count just as much as anyone else’s.
Citizens of countries affected by American policies would surely enjoy the opportunity to weigh in on our decisions, although, to be clear, they are not eligible to vote unless they have dual citizenship in the United States.
You point out that the process of voting overseas may be considered more complicated, whether or not this belief is true. To your point, FVAP reports that 39.9% of eligible overseas Americans were interested in casting a ballot but did not vote due to obstacles in the voting process in 2020. US Vote has voter tools and an actual human Voter Help Desk to support these aspiring voters.
However, 31.5% of the overseas Americans who did not cast ballots in 2020 cited factors such as low motivation or a lack of interest as their reason.
In Adrift, you report that the percentage of Americans who trust the federal government to do the right thing, almost always or most of the time, has not budged over 30% since 2007.
You also write that “[n]o other form of sovereignty gives power to people the way democracy does. It sits on a bed of legitimacy, justice, freedom. It promotes innovation, prosperity and healthy governance.”
How do you explain the segment of overseas citizens who don’t vote due to high apathy, low efficacy, and low trust?
There’s an unfortunate theme among some Americans I describe as catastrophists. There are those who believe that the U.S. is broken yet have no interest in coming up with solutions to fix it. They would prefer to quit — leave the country, not vote, go about their business on their own. This is a dangerous and destructive mindset, but it’s real, and seems to be on the rise recently.
I wrote about this recently. So some portion of Americans abroad fall under this category, but I think their decision to live abroad is a symptom of their disengagement, not the cause.
What we need more of in this country is reformers, not quitters. Making the decision to live abroad does not relieve us of our responsibilities as citizens of our country. If anything, the pressure should feel even greater.
And thanks to absentee voting, you can both live outside the U.S. and be a reformer at the same time. But ultimately, voting is an expression of engagement, and the engagement has to come first.
Where there are Americans who are abroad who have the desire, but lack an understanding or access to vote, that’s a barrier we should be bringing down.
In You’re Eligible Situations - YES - US Vote is working to tear down those barriers. We aim to increase turnout for underrepresented voters, especially overseas voters with low voting engagement and high situational barriers.
YES inspires, informs, and ignites civic participation. It inspires by having voters with clout motivate Americans who are abroad to request an absentee ballot. And it informs emerging voters about how to vote in complex situations in order to ignite lifelong voting.
Can we throw a couple of international voting situations at you that YES addresses to see if you’re not only inspiring but also voting savvy? Guess if it’s YES!
First: Can you vote if you’re an American citizen who has never lived in the U.S.? Imagine, for instance, you were born abroad to an American parent and never set foot in America. Guess if it’s YES.
That’s a tough one, I’m going to go with yes.
It is indeed a tough one - no mercy, no malice, right?
The answer is that you might be able to vote. Here’s how US Vote’s Voter Help Desk breaks it down: I'm a U.S. citizen born overseas. Am I eligible to vote in U.S. elections?
Next question. Guess if it’s YES: Imagine that you’ve sold your homes in New York and Florida and anywhere else in the country. You no longer own or rent any property in the States. Can you, Scott Galloway, vote if you live abroad but do not maintain a U.S. address?
I think yes.
Well done! Here’s how the help desk unpacks the answer: Which state do I vote in if I no longer maintain U.S. residence?
Scott, thank you for helping US Vote launch the YES campaign, and for helping us shine a light on the need to increase voter turnout for U.S. citizens living abroad. By voting, Americans can be overseas without being overlooked.
Thanks, and I really appreciate all the work you’re doing.
"Free Range Voters" like Scott Galloway who live abroad temporarily and travel frequently could benefit from creating a Voter Account at U.S. Vote Foundation. These secure accounts privately store your voting information and can generate forms to request an absentee ballot no matter where you are. You can receive notifications about upcoming elections and get reminders about election deadlines. With your own personalized democracy dashboard, you can be on the road in voter mode.