Members of the House Oversight Committee are urging a review of the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program for military personnel living overseas. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) assists military service members abroad and U.S. citizens living in foreign countries with absentee voting. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran, spearheaded the letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro asking the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation about the program’s effectiveness.
Officials have yet to release the results of a 2011 set of penetration tests on Internet voting software conducted by the Department of Defense, prompting election watchdogs to ask what the Pentagon might be hiding. A few months after the 2011 tests, an official said the results would be publicly available, and a year later, another said the first release was slated by the end of 2012. A representative now says it will release results in 2015, as material is considered “pre-decisional.” Meanwhile, elections officials and lawmakers from across the country are joining watchdogs in demanding the results.
A bi-partisan bill to streamline voting and voter registration for service members and their families has been announced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. The legislation, to be introduced by Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), would also address delays in ballot distribution for military voters and civilians living aboard. The Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements Act — “SENTRI Act” — aims to enhance the senators’ MOVE Act of 2010 that improved access to voting for military personnel.
Half of all U.S. military bases around the world lack legally required facilities where troops can register to vote and get absentee ballots, according to a report from the Pentagon’s inspector general. Advocacy groups said the report shows the military has let down its service members by failing to implement the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. “It’s disappointing. This was the will of Congress,” said Eric Eversole, founder of the Military Voter Protection Project. “Here you have an agency [the Pentagon] that basically said to Congress, ‘We’re not going to do what you told us to do. We think we know more about voter registration than you do and we’re not going to do it.’?”
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.
Three years after the enactment of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009, a new report by the Department of Defense’s inspector general found that MOVE’s requirement of installation voting assistance offices (IVAO) on all non-warzone facilities is not being implemented across the globe. More specifically, IG researchers attempted to call every IVAO identified by the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The report says the “results were clear,” with about half of IVAOs unreachable. Those findings have touched off an interesting debate in Washington. One of the IG’s recommendations is to amend MOVE to make IVAOs discretionary, not mandatory.
The State Board of Elections may move to implement an online ballot marking system for all absentee voters in time for this year’s elections, depending on an opinion from the attorney general. But some voter advocacy groups worry about the potential for fraud. The move to online ballot marking comes after a 2010 federal mandate that required states to provide overseas voters and active military personnel with access to online absentee ballot applications. The attorney general’s opinion, requested by Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, would say whether or not the elections board should seek federal and state certification for the online ballot marking tool. The board staff is currently developing the device through a Department of Defense grant. Certification would test the system and look for vulnerable areas, including where fraud or manipulation could occur. All whole voting systems are federally required to receive certification, but the state board argues the ballot marking tool would be only part of a voting system.
Making sure such voters can cast ballots in federal elections is the mission of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), a Defense Department office that offers assistance not just to military personnel, but to any U.S. citizen who needs help casting a ballot from overseas. It offers resources, including a wizard on its website that takes a voter through the entire process of registering to vote and casting a ballot in the appropriate jurisdiction. But Robert Carey, FVAP’s director, said his office’s assistance role to state and local governments is just as important. … Carey said 2009 was a watershed year in terms of election law changes designed to improve voter participation among servicemembers and overseas voters. Among other things, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act requires state and local elections officials to mail absentee ballots to servicemembers at least 45 days prior to an election in order to ensure a ballot can make its way to a remote location — and back to elections officials — in time to be counted.
Civic-minded soldiers stationed across the world could one day obtain absentee ballots from their laptops or mobile phones as part of a new federal research effort to increase participation among overseas troops and other voters who are out of the country during elections.
A team of Missouri researchers trained in technology, cyber-security and elections management will use a $740,000 Department of Defense grant to explore Internet-based and mobile phone voting applications.
The project initially will focus on speeding the delivery of overseas ballots, Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said at a Thursday press conference announcing the collaboration. Noren emphasized that voters won’t actually cast ballots online, but researchers will study ways to surmount the security obstacles to online voting. “The time it takes to deliver ballots and have ballots returned is unacceptable,” she said. “This has been a long, ongoing problem by military and overseas voters.”
New York State, which will struggle with a deficit projected to be more than $3 billion in 2012, is facing the ridiculous and costly possibility of holding three primaries next year instead of the usual two in presidential election years.
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This particular lunacy is possible because state lawmakers have failed to comply with a 2009 federal law that requires military personnel overseas to get ballots 45 days before a federal election. New York officials got the Defense Department to give them a one-time exemption from the law to hold Congressional primaries, along with state legislative primaries, in September 2010.
New York has failed to come up with an effective plan to send election ballots to military personnel overseas, the Defense Department said Wednesday in rejecting the state’s request for more time to meet absentee-ballot requirements.
The decision raises the stakes for a legal showdown between federal lawyers and the state, which last year violated a federal law requiring that ballots be mailed at least 45 days before an election.
Technology to make registering to vote and receiving ballots easier for U.S. service members and Americans living abroad will be getting support from federal government grants, Government Technology reports.
The first six Defense Department grants, part of the Electronic Absentee Systems for Elections program, were announced Nov. 3. The states of Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, as well as El Dorado and Santa Cruz counties in California and King County, Wash., are the first six recipients of the grants, worth more than $7 million. Government Technology reports that jurisdictions receiving the initial six grants serve 134,585 military and overseas voters.
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.