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electionlineWeekly--October 27, 2011

Table of Contents

I. In Focus This Week

FVAP report shows continued trends in military voting
Report highlights successes and future challenges

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Associate, Pew Center on the States

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.

The result of both of these efforts yielded data showing that military participation in registration and voting is strong, mirroring figures from 2008. Moreover, military voter participation increased in 2010 – more than 20 percent over 2006.

For the first time, FVAP also surveyed military spouses, who are entitled to the same protections under federal and state laws and face hurdles of their own when attempting to register and cast a ballot.

On their own, these numbers clearly show that these voters are more involved in the electoral process than the average citizen, but when you take into account unique challenges they face, the numbers are even more compelling.

For example, many military voters face specific challenges: numerous deployments and relocations; convoluted laws that vary by state and lack uniformity; as well as remote locations that make it difficult to get information, update registration, or get mail quickly to and from their state election offices.

Despite that, those in the military register at a rate of 77 percent compared to 65 percent for the greater eligible voting population. Similarly, both members of the military and their spouses vote at a higher rate than the average voter.

Compared to 2006, 24 percent more military personnel cast an absentee ballot in 2010, a number that may be attributed to new state and federal laws that took effect in response to the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act.

Unfortunately, the rate of military voters who never received their ballot also went up, suggesting that more work needs to be done to ensure this community is served.

Many of these voters (73 percent of spouses and 38 percent of servicemembers) also used state and local forms, rather than the official federal forms, which may not have allowed them to self-identify as a UOCAVA voter and take advantage of those benefits and protections.

The Pew Center on the States’ Election Initiatives has long worked on behalf of military and overseas voters and these numbers are extremely illuminating and help to guide our work further.

We know more certain than ever that those serving and representing our country overseas want to participate our democracy, and we are dedicated to supporting them with the policies and tools they need.

In addition to advocating for changes in state laws to make the voting process easier for military and overseas voters, our Voting Information Project and Upgrading Voter Registration initiatives are making it easier for these voters to navigate the voter registration process and get the tools and information they need to request a ballot, find the right deadlines, and successfully cast a ballot.

For example, Pew is currently developing an embeddable tool that aims to serve as a one-stop-shop for answering military voters’ questions, including user-specific deadlines and access to a custom Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, all based on a voter’s registered address stateside.

This tool could be embedded on state election websites or even military information outlets to simplify the process by providing them with official information where they look for it: on news or military organizations’ websites. These findings tell us that these voters are engaged and simply need more outlets and easier access to the information they need.