Many military installations across the globe lack offices where troops can register to vote and obtain absentee ballots, the Defense Department’s inspector general concludes in a newly released report. Investigators attempted to contact 229 voting-assistance offices and were able to reach just 114 — about 50 percent. Under the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, all military installations are required to have such offices. The report could inflame tensions between the Obama administration and House Republicans, who have accused the White House of moving too slowly to implement the law, which also requires states to mail absentee ballots to service members at least 45 days before an election.
Advocacy groups have already warned that turnout could be low among service members in this election cycle. The Military Voter Protection Project, for instance, released a report last month, noting the low number of absentee ballot requests in swing states. In Florida, 37,953 service members had requested absentee ballots this year, compared with 86,926 in 2008, according to the report. And in Virginia, 1,746 service members had requested ballots, compared with 20,738 in 2008. Of course, with two months left before Election Day, both states could still reach or exceed their 2008 totals.
The Defense Department’s inspector general has raised concerns about the requirements of the 2009 military voter act, pointing out that Congress didn’t provide additional funds to pay for the voting-assistance offices, which could cost the military more than $15 million a year, according to an estimate in the report.