National: Overseas voting in U.S. election could double as anxious Americans mail in their ballots | Elizabeth Palmer/CBS News

Nearly 3 million U.S. citizens living overseas are eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election. Already there are clear indications of a massive turnout from these expats, who are taking advantage of a long-established international absentee ballot system — but with some extra anxiety As CBS News senior international correspondent Elizabeth Palmer notes, Americans don’t even have to be on the planet Earth to cast their votes. U.S. astronaut Kate Rubins, who blasted off last week for the International Space Station, will cast her absentee ballot with a little help from NASA Mission Control.”I think it’s really important for everybody to vote, and if we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too,” she said. The trend was already headed upward. According to official data from the U.S. Federal Voting Assistance Program, the 2018 midterm elections saw an increase of about 30% in ballots sent from Americans abroad.

National: Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November | Maggie Miller/The Hill

A group of Senate Democrats led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Bob Menendez (N.J.) are urging the State Department to take steps to ensure military personnel and other Americans living overseas are able to vote in the November general election. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent last week, the group of more than a dozen senators asked for details on the agency’s plan to ensure all Americans living overseas were able to receive and send back absentee ballots in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic continues to restrict travel and mail service in many countries around the world,” the senators wrote. “Without proper planning, this could jeopardize the ability for Americans overseas, including U.S. service members and diplomats, to vote in the November election.” They pointed to concerns around U.S. embassies and consulates, normally responsible for assisting with the voting process for those living overseas, not being fully staffed during the pandemic. The senators also questioned whether embassies were planning voting information campaigns, and what the process was for those living near embassies and consulates to drop off their ballots. “We recognize that there may be conditions in individual countries that are beyond the control of U.S. officials that could make voting more difficult, but we must take steps now to attempt to overcome those challenges,” the Democrats wrote.

New Jersey: Software glitch delays military, overseas ballot mailings | David Wildstein/New Jersey Globe

A software malfunction with the state Division of Elections’ Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) has delayed the mailing of some military and overseas citizen ballots for the July 7 primary election. A new system the state began using this year was not attaching ballots to the correct voter file, the New Jersey Globe has learned. A fix for the glitch was planned over Memorial Day weekend, but it didn’t work.  Election officials and an outside vendor are working to triage the technology issue and are expected to take another run at it in the next day or so. It’s not clear if the optional ballot bulking problems will be fixed at all. The Division of Elections notified county clerks this morning that they should send out military and overseas ballots on an individual basis rather than depend on the state voter base.

Ohio: Overseas voters could be blocked by security measures meant to stop hackers | Rick Rouan/The Columbus Dispatch

Cybersecurity measures meant to keep foreign hackers from accessing government websites could make it harder for overseas civilian and military voters in some countries to determine how to cast their ballots. At least one voter eligible to cast a ballot in Franklin County recently could not access the county Board of Elections website because it had blocked all traffic from Brazil. Security filters that block international traffic would affect a relatively small number of Ohioans. Overseas voters from Ohio requested about 9,600 ballots in 2018, and only about 7,500 of them were returned, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But government agencies increasingly are looking to balance access for those who need it versus protections from hackers in other countries as public officials put a higher premium on cybersecurity, particularly around elections systems. Voting rights groups have raised the issue with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office. LaRose issued a sweeping security directive last summer for Ohio’s county boards of elections in preparation for the 2020 election.

National: Civilians, military abroad may find it more expensive to vote | Bill Theobald/The Fulcrum

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration’s trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections. The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years. Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don’t cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service. With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting. Last week, Kentucky elections director Jared Dearing pleaded for help from the Election Assistance Commission — for himself and his peers in other states. The deadline for his state and most others to send out absentee ballots for the fall elections, Dearing said, falls a few days before a Sept. 24-25 UPU meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the U.S. proposal to revise the rate system. That makes it difficult to provide voters with guidance about how to return their ballots. If the United States ends up withdrawing from the UPU, overseas citizens may not be able to return their ballots using regular mail service and could have to pay upward of $60 to use one of the commercial shipping services, Dearing said.

National: Will A Trump Trade Move Create An Election Mess For Overseas U.S. Voters? | Tierney Sneed/TPM

The Trump administration has supported plenty of moves to make it harder to vote. But an under-the-radar action President Trump took last year, as part of his trade war with China, may be a case of him just stumbling into that outcome, election experts fear. Trump is threatening to withdraw from the international body that oversees global mail delivery, putting at risk the stability and reliability of the current system of sending and receiving mail internationally. Any disruption to the international postal service, voter advocates say, could make an already difficult process of casting ballots for Americans abroad even more complicated. Among those who stand to be affected are members of the military overseas, whose ability to vote while serving their country has always been a politically sensitive issue.

Wisconsin: Department of Justice challenges Wisconsin’s overseas voter restrictions | Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue Wisconsin over its restrictions on overseas voters. The Wisconsin Elections Commission released a letter Tuesday that it received from the DOJ on May 9. The letter warned the agency is preparing to sue because Wisconsin law doesn’t allow temporary overseas voters to obtain ballots electronically or to file unofficial ballots.

National: Servicemembers turned out in smaller numbers for 2016 presidential vote | Stars & Stripes

The 2016 U.S. presidential election failed to interest many military voters, a recently released federal study has found. Voting rates dropped from 58 percent in 2012 to just 46 percent in 2016 among servicemembers, says the Federal Voting Assistance Program report, released earlier this month. “A striking finding from our analyses is the reported drop in participation rate among military personnel in the 2016 election as compared to the general population,” FVAP program director David Beirne said in a report to Congress. “The data shows that more military members cited motivation-related reasons for not voting and were less interested in the election in 2016 than in 2012,” he added.

National: Most eligible expatriates don’t vote in US elections, study finds | Stars & Stripes

A study released Wednesday, described as the first of its kind, has found what political scientists have long suspected: Most American expatriates don’t vote in U.S. elections. The study by the Federal Voting Assistance Program found that voting rates for all estimated 2.6 million eligible overseas voters, excluding servicemembers and their spouses, was 4 percent in 2014. That compares to 36 percent of eligible voters in the U.S. and, according to a previous study by the FVAP, 21 percent of eligible active-duty military voters who mailed in ballots in 2014. “While we can expect to see an increase in the overall voting rates for the 2016 presidential election, we need to understand whether the overall rate for 2014 is due to low awareness of how to vote absentee or if it is related to other factors,” FVAP Director Matt Boehmer said in a news release.

National: 8 million Americans living abroad may tip a close election | USA Today

Although Champaign, Ill., native Judith Maltby has lived in Great Britain for 30 years, she returns to the United States regularly and follows U.S. presidential races. This year’s election is of particular concern to Maltby, a chaplain at England’s Oxford University who hopes “the U.S. remains a serious partner with democratic Europe and continues to be outward looking.” She said she is backing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton because Republican “Donald Trump’s campaign is about isolationism of the most destructive kind.” Maltby is one of approximately 8 million Americans living abroad, a group large enough to tip elections in close presidential and state contests. They could not vote until 1975, when the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act became law. Since then, non-partisan organizations, including Vote From Abroad and Overseas Vote Foundation, have offered help, such as how to register from abroad.

Ohio: Choose Your Uncertainty: Ohio SoS Goes Slow on Early Voting Pending Appeal | Election Academy

Last Friday, a federal court judge in Ohio issued an order in Obama for America v. Husted directing the State of Ohio to restore early voting for all Ohio voters on the three days before Election Day 2012. On Tuesday. Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive in response to the order. The directive notes that the order is being appealed and states, in pertinent part:

Announcing new hours before the court case reaches final resolution will only serve to confuse voters and conflict with the standard of uniformity sought in Directive 2012-35 [concerning early voting]. Therefore, there is no valid reason for my office or the county boards of elections to set hours for in-person absentee voting the last three days before the election at this time. If the appellate courts ultimately reverse the trial court’s decision, in-person absentee voting for non-UOCAVA voters will end the Friday before the election. If however, the appellate courts uphold the trial court’s decision, I will be required to issue a consistent uniform schedule for statewide in-person voting hours for the last three days before the election. I am confident there will be sufficient time after the conclusion of the appeal process to set uniform hours across the state.

Voting Blogs: OFA v. Husted: Understanding the Ohio Early Voting Decision | Election Law @ Moritz

Today’s federal district court ruling in Obama for America v. Husted raises several interesting issues. The case, which began only last month, quickly achieved some notoriety as an attack on military voting rights protected both by state law and by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), though in fact it was merely an effort to leverage some of the additional accommodations that Ohio was offering military (or UOCAVA) voters into a basis for restoring early in-person voting for all Ohio voters. In that regard, today’s decision provides exactly the relief that the Plaintiffs desired, subject to an appeal to the Sixth Circuit. Before exploring some implications of today’s decision, it may be helpful to consider some background. From 2005 to 2010, Ohio’s early voting law permitted early in-person voting up through the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before Election Day, a three-day period during which close to 100,000 voters may have voted in the 2008 presidential election. In 2011, however, the Ohio legislature amended the applicable statutory provisions to halt early voting at 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. Unfortunately, the legislative process by which Ohio arrived at this reduced early voting period was not a model of clarity.

Maryland: Online ballot marking for absentee voters approved, but potential for fraud questioned |

Thousands of absentee voters from Maryland will be the first to mark their ballots online this fall, as the attorney general gave the green light to the State Board of Elections Thursday. But at least one advocacy organization said the new online ballot marking program, along with the state’s just started online registration process, is open to voter fraud. The long-awaited formal opinion from the attorney general  gave the elections board the official OK to implement online ballot marking software without having to undergo state or federal certification, which a watchdog group opposed. The five-member board voted unanimously during their monthly meeting to proceed with the new online tool. The ballot marking “wizard” will allow military and overseas voters, also referred to as Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters, to mark their absentee ballots online, a step designed to make the final processing of their ballots more efficient, the state board said. After the approval, a voting rights advocate told the board about a possible security vulnerability, one she said that would not only affect the state’s new online voter registration system but could potentially extend to the November elections.

Ohio: Commission: Only Ohio Distinguishes Military, Civilian Early Voters | BuzzFeed

Despite claims that Democrats’ challenge to an Ohio voting law would undermine military voters’ rights everywhere, no other states offer soldiers’ the special status afforded in Ohio. A report issued Aug. 1 by the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission found that no other states have any legal provision that has one early in-person voting deadline for most voters and another for service members, as does the Ohio law being challenged by the Obama campaign and defended by Ohio Republicans and some fraternal military organizations. The report, which has not been released publicly, was obtained by BuzzFeed and has been published here for the first time. The report does note that two states — Indiana and North Carolina — have exceptions in their laws that would allow a very narrow subset of service members to vote early in-person later than other voters. The Obama campaign’s lawsuit in Ohio, in which it is joined by the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party, is about early voting. The specific laws being challenged, however, relate only to in-person early voting and not to traditional mail-in absentee voting, which clearly cuts down on the number of affected active service members. Ohio law, as it is slated to be run in this year’s presidential election, contains one end-point for early in-person voting for most voters (the Friday before the election) and another for those service members and their family voting under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

Voting Blogs: Romney Would Restrict Voting Right For 900,000 Ohio Vets | ThinkProgress

When I read stories this weekend that said the Obama campaign was suing to restrict the voting rights of military in Ohio, my blood got boiling. Of course, Think Progress has already documented that story, inflamed by the Romney campaign, is patently false. In fact, the Obama campaign was suing to block an Ohio law which restricts a very successful early voting program in the state. The President’s campaign was trying to keep expanded voting rights in place for everyone, military included. So, why am I still so disturbed? Because Mitt Romney, by supporting the Ohio law that would do away with three days of early voting for all but those covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (‘UOCAVA’), is supporting the restriction of voting rights for as many as 913,000 Ohio veterans. This includes military retirees with over 20 years of service and multiple deployments. In short, Mitt Romney supports efforts to make voting more difficult for the very people who have put their lives on the line after swearing an oath to uphold our Constitution and democracy. Once you leave the military, you are no longer covered by UOCAVA. Your voting rights are the same as any civilian. That means the early voting law which Mitt Romney wants to undo, provided hundreds of thousands of Ohio veterans with more of an opportunity to vote. By all accounts, Ohio voters liked and used the early voting law. In 2008, nearly one-third of all ballots was cast under the early voting measures, surely many of them veterans.

Ohio: Obama Campaign Called Ohio Decision On Early Military Voting “Appropriate” In Lawsuit | Buzzfeed

The Obama campaign said in a lawsuit drawing attention this weekend that the Ohio Secretary of State “appropriately” allowed a longer time period for early, in-person voting among members of the military and their families — a line that contradicts suggestions that the suit opposes early voting for servicemembers. The lawsuit — filed more than two weeks ago by the Obama campaign, Democratic National Committee and Ohio Democratic Party — has become a target of the Romney campaign, with Spokesman Ryan Williams telling BuzzFeed that Obama’s campaign “sued Ohio to object to the three extra days the state is giving military voters and their families during Ohio’s in-person early voting period.” Fox News went further, reporting that the lawsuit aims to “block a new state law allowing men and women in uniform to vote up until the Monday right before an election.” In fact, the lawsuit is addressing what it calls “a confused legislative process” surrounding the passage of three voting laws in a short period in Ohio. The effect of those laws is: (1) in-person early voting in Ohio ends for most voters on the Friday before the election and (2) two conflicting deadlines regarding the end of in-person early voting for those voting under the auspices of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act, which includes servicemembers and their families.

National: Federal bill would simplify absentee voting for troops | Army Times

One absentee ballot request from military and overseas voters would be good for an entire election cycle, under legislation introduced Friday in the House of Representatives. The bill, HR 5828, is aimed at clarifying confusion created in a 2009 overhaul of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The change can be interpreted as requiring separate absentee ballot requests for primary and general elections.

National: Summit addresses military and overseas voters – despite progress, challenges remain | electionlineWeekly

The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) hosted its Sixth Annual UOCAVA Summit last week, where participants highlighted progress made and noted the challenges that still remain in ensuring that military and overseas voters can successfully cast their absentee ballots.

A new report from the Pew Center on the States noted in the past two years, 47 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to protect the voting rights of military and overseas citizens. This year’s election will be the first presidential election since many of these changes went into effect. The report, Democracy from Afar, found that many states have implemented changes to their laws or administrative codes.

National: FVAP report shows continued trends in military voting Report highlights successes and future challenges | electionlineWeekly

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recently released its 2010 Post Election Report, which included a wealth of information on the participation of military voters and their spouses. This release follows the recent publication of data and a report on military and overseas voting by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

While the report includes numerous details focusing on the specifics of members of this community, the general trend is clear: members of the military and their spouses are highly engaged in the elections process and continue to register and vote at higher rates than the general electorate.

Unlike the EAC, which simply reports data provided by states as part of the Election Administration and Voting Survey, the FVAP adjusted military participation data to account for the age and gender of the generally younger and male population of uniformed voters. FVAP also surveyed a number of populations to ascertain their level of participation in 2010.

Voting Blogs: Crowd-Geeking the New Military Voting Report | Doug Chapin/PEEA

On Tuesday, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) released a report and underlying dataassessing 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.

Voting Blogs: The Empty Mailbox: Why Aren’t Election Offices Responding to EAC Data Requests? | Doug Chapin/PEEA

There is nothing quite like new data to set the election geek world into a frenzy of delight. The EAC’s release yesterday of the latest report on the Uniformed and Overseas Civilians Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is the latest information we have about the fate of ballots cast by military and overseas voters. The report (teased mercilessly on Twitter by the EAC in a masterstroke of geek marketing, by the way) is especially important as it reflects the first data reflecting changes made by the MOVE Act of 2009.

The data contains lots of good news for anyone who cares about the ability of military and overseas voters to participate in democracy from a distance and appears to validate somewhat the efforts by Congress and state/local election offices to improve the UOCAVA balloting process.

Voting Blogs: A review of the FVAP UOCAVA workshop | Freedom to Tinker

The US Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is the Department of Defense Agency charged with assisting military and overseas voters with all aspects of voting, including registering to vote, obtaining ballots, and returning ballots. FVAP’s interpretations of Federal law (*) says that they must perform a demonstration of electronic return of marked ballots by overseas military voters (**) in a Federal election at the first Federal election that occurs one year after the adoption of guidelines by the US Election Assistance Commission. Since the EAC hasn’t adopted such guidelines yet (and isn’t expected to for at least another year or two), the clock hasn’t started ticking, so a 2012 demonstration is impossible and a 2014 demonstration looks highly unlikely. Hence, this isn’t a matter of imminent urgency; however, such systems are complex and FVAP is trying to get the ball rolling on what such a system would look like.

As has been discussed previously on this blog, nearly all computer security experts are very concerned about the prospect of marked ballot return over the internet (which we will henceforth refer to as “internet voting”). Issues include vulnerability of client computers, issues with auditability, concerns about usability and coercion, etc. On the flip side, many states and localities are marching full steam ahead on their own internet voting systems, generally ignoring the concerns of computer scientists, and focusing on the perceived greater convenience and hoped-for increased turnout. Many of these systems include email return of marked ballots, which computer scientists generally consider to be even riskier than web-based voting.

National: Organisation appeals for expat Americans to stand up and be counted | Telegraph

The Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF), a not-for-profit group dedicated to helping Americans overseas take part in federal elections, began its “Counting Citizens” project in April this year.

Using the power of social media to spread the word, the group is appealing for expats to register on a dedicated website, and help the organisation produce a reliable estimate of the number of Americans currently living abroad

“At the moment, there no is no accurate up-to-date estimate of how many American citizens abroad there are or where they are,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, the president of the OVF. “Expats are not included in the US census, and previous estimates have been very rough, and often non-official.

Texas: Possible voting-date complications remain with Texas absentee voting changes |

Questions as to whether Texas might move its primary from March into April appeared resolved late on Tuesday when the House amended a voting bill to keep the March primary intact. Turns out the uncertainty might not be over quite yet. Under the current arrangement, local May elections and early voting for primary runoffs would be just two days apart.

Senate Bill 100, which passed the House on third reading Wednesday, is aimed at trying to make it easier for military and overseas voters to cast absentee ballots. Federal law requires that Texas make the changes.