On Tuesday, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) released a report and underlying data assessing the extent of voting by military voters in the 2010 election. The data paints an encouraging but still mixed picture; while participation rates for members of the military (adjusted for age and gender) appear to be strong, there are still areas where the system could improve. For example, 29% of military voters reported that they requested but never received an absentee ballot – up from 16% in 2008. These figures are likely to form the backdrop for continued enforcement and potential expansion of the MOVE Act of 2009, which was designed to improve voting for military and overseas voters.
The FVAP report is so rich with data that I knew there was no way I could dive in alone; that’s why I reached out to my fellow election geeks for their read on the release. Not everyone wanted to speak for the record, so we’ll keep all of these anonymous – but what they had to say was fascinating and helped me (and hopefully you) see the data in different ways.
One geek went into great detail about FVAP’s decision to adjust military participation rates for age and gender. …
Another geek spotted an interesting aspect of the survey data used in the report; namely, the low response rate (25% at the highest and as low as 14%) across different categories. The expert attributed this in part to the decision to conduct a census of the full population – and had this suggestion:
“Far better would be a smaller survey, in which LOTS of resources went into making sure the response rate was as close to 100% as possible. Instead of sending out 7700 surveys, send out 1,000. Instead of 2200 surveys of dubious value, you would have 900-1000 surveys of great value.”
Finally, in response to a general query by Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog about how the FVAP data compared to another recent report by the Military Voter Protection Project (MVPP) – whose conclusions were far more pessimistic about the state of military voting – a third geek had this observation which goes to the diversity of ballots cast by voters pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Civilians Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA):