One of the many strengths of our military is that our service members come from all across the country, from rural counties to densely packed cities and everything in between. However, the geographic diversity of our military can also present unique challenges to service members’ ability to understand and quickly navigate voting rules. Most people are unaware of the confusing system our service members and overseas voters face when trying to request and cast their absentee ballot. A patchwork of state rules means that there isn’t one standardized process for this group. Yet many of these voters compare voting information with one another, often close to election deadlines when they have very little room for error. Unfortunately, well-meaning fellow voters from different parts of the country might assume requirements are the same for all and pass along bad information.
In part, it is this challenge that moved the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) to partner with the Council of State Governments (CSG) to assemble election officials and experts to find useful and relevant recommendations to make voting easier, regardless of where a military or overseas voter casts their ballot.
… One of the partnership’s efforts, the CSG Overseas Voting Initiative Policy Working Group, released their key recommendations on December 17. While some of the recommendations are basic good government practices (e.g. use plain language and better utilize websites), certain recommendations, summarized below, deserve special attention:
- States should treat the “Federal Post Card Application” (FPCA) as a permanent request for registration;
- State online voter registration systems should allow military and overseas voters to designate as such when they register and apply for ballots; and
- Local election officials should affirmatively notify when a military and overseas voter’s application is accepted.