The last stage of the American presidential elections has seen the often-overlooked constituency - overseas Americans - turning out in higher numbers than ever before to register to vote. There has never been an official census of the US population abroad but it is estimated that there are 4.7 million Americans living overseas, with 49,000 possessing a "permesso di soggiorno" in Italy in 2003.

It is still possible to register for an absentee ballot for federal elections, with most states accepting registration until 2 October. An absentee ballot paper will then be sent to each registered voter to be completed and returned by a deadline, which varies depending on the state.

There are four organisations helping to register US ctizens abroad: Democrats Abroad, Republicans Abroad, American Overseas for Kerry (AOK), Overseasvote2004 (the first online registration) and Tellanamericantovote.com. Both the Democrats Abroad in Italy and the Republicans Abroad in Italy have set up registration stations around the country since February.

In Rome, Brenda Pearson of Democrats Abroad believes that to date, Democrats Abroad in Italy have assisted over 21,000 people to register, compared with only 1,000 at the last elections.

Nancy Galan, of the Republicans Abroad in Italy, says that her organisation has also seen a marked increase in interest in this year's elections, especially by individuals via email, but she was unable to give any precise figures about registrations.

For more information and to register online see www.overseasvote2004.com and www.fvap.gov.

Registration will take place in Rome on 18 September at; John Cabot University, Via della Lungara 233 (10.00-15.00), The Economy Book and Video Center, Via Torino 136 (12.00-17.00) and The American Overseas School in Rome, Via Cassia 811 (10.00-17.00).