All Things Considered, Not Such A Good MOVE?

We have criticized Connecticut officials for supporting the well intended, yet flawed, Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE)  because of provisions which open the door to unproven Internet voting which threatens democracy.  Supporters of the act tell us we should accept the risks of Internet voting pilot programs, because the rest of the bill would help our troops overcome problems they have had in getting their votes in by election deadlines.

Now we learn of a flaw in the bill which will actually make it more difficult for military and overseas voters to vote this year. Direct from the Stars and Stripes: Overseas military will have to register again to get ballots this year <read>

Veterans, military dependents and other U.S. civilians living overseas will have to as well. Changes in federal law mandate that voters must request a new absentee ballot each year in order to participate in state and federal elections, instead of the previous practice of requiring new applications only every few years.

“The message is for military voters to send in that (federal postcard application) as soon as possible, because they won’t be able to vote without it,” said Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. “You need to submit a new postcard every year, and every time you change duty stations, and every time you move.”

Veterans, military dependents and other U.S. civilians living overseas will have to as well. Changes in federal law mandate that voters must request a new absentee ballot each year in order to participate in state and federal elections, instead of the previous practice of requiring new applications only every few years.

“The message is for military voters to send in that (federal postcard application) as soon as possible, because they won’t be able to vote without it,” said Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. “You need to submit a new postcard every year, and every time you change duty stations, and every time you move.”

2 responses to “All Things Considered, Not Such A Good MOVE?”

  1. rjs

    In truth, once the FVAP is submitted (assuming the service member doesn’t move), a standard AB application (available on-line in PDF fillable format) will still result in either a blank ballot (if desired) or a regular absentee ballot.

    If the service member has moved, the FVAP doesn’t seem to help…I don’t know if this is the fault of the Defense Dept or the Post Office, but most of the AB’s sent out to the address of the older (1 year or more) FVAP’s get returned to the clerk without delivery.

  2. Bob_Carey

    A couple of things to which FVAP feels it should respond:

    - The MOVE Act is, overall, a HUGE improvement for military and overseas voting rights: requiring States to send ballots out at least 45 days prior, to transmit blank ballots electronically, and to accept the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot for all federal elections will significantly improve voting rights for this population.

    - As for the requirement to register again, that is unfortunate, and so that is why FVAP is reaching out as aggressively as it is to make sure all military and overseas voters know to reregister and resubmit their absentee ballot application this year. The reason the law was changed is, as “rjs” said, the belief by most election officials that the previous federal legal requirement that States automatically send ballots resulted in many being returned as undeliverable. However, nation-wide, less than 2.5% of these automatically transmitted ballots were returned as undeliverable. In 2008, Connecticut reported to the Election Assistance Commission that NONE of these ballots were returned as undeliverable.

    But just because we have that one unfortunate provision in the MOVE Act, overall, the Act was a huge improvement for military and overseas voters.

    The reason this change in the law is unfortunate is not only that military and overseas voters have to reapply every calendar year, but also because in the off-year, if a military or overseas voter doesn’t apply at the beginning of the year, it is unlikely that they will hear of any special elections in time to apply and receive a ballot because they are announced usually within 60 days of their being held. That’s unfair to these voters.

    Contact FVAP if you have any further questions. Vote@fvap.ncr.gov.

    Bob Carey
    Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program

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