A Defense Department report has found more than a quarter of military voters who requested absentee ballots for the 2010 election never got them. DoD is trying to figure out why and what to do about it. The findings cover what was an otherwise upbeat year for military voting statistics: Uniformed voter participation was up 21 percent in 2010, compared with the last midterm election in 2006. And while voter registration rates among the general population tend to experience a noticeable drop-off between presidential election years and midterm cycles, DoD’s figures were relatively stable between 2008 and 2010.
But based on post-election surveys, the number of troops who requested military absentee ballots but never got them increased dramatically. The Pentagon’s Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP) estimates 29 percent of active duty military voters — roughly 120,000 troops — never got their ballots. FVAP’s report offers one possible reason for that: 44 percent of local election officials missed the federal deadline, which requires them to send out military absentee ballots at least 45 days prior to election day.
“One of the things we’re trying to figure out is the extent of this problem,” said Bob Carey, FVAP’s director. “There are about 7,800 election jurisdictions nationwide. But 92 percent of the military ballots are transmitted by only 15 percent of those 7,800 jurisdictions. Eighty-eight percent of the election jurisdictions only transmit 8 percent of the ballots.”