I. In Focus This Week
Summit addresses military and overseas voters
Despite progress, challenges remain
Pew Center on the States
Washington DC – 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 to allow for:
- Enough time to vote: Thirty-eight states and the District have laws or rules meeting or exceeding federal requirements to send ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election. Eight additional states changed their primary dates to accommodate the requirement;
- Electronic transmission of unvoted ballots: All states and the District allow military and overseas voters to receive blank ballots by e-mail, fax or on the Web;
- Eliminating requirements for notarization or witnesses: Forty-six states and the District do not call for either for military and overseas voters; and
- Expanded use of Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWABs): Thirty-four states and the District mandate FWABs be used as a backup ballot for all elections, including state and local.
And now one more state can be added to the list of those changing primary dates. Last Friday a federal judge ordered that New York change its Congressional primary from September 11 to June 26 to be able to send out ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.
The summit also saw OVF announce the creation of the U.S. Vote Foundation, a new domestic voter engagement initiative which will provide U.S. citizens with access to innovative voter registration tools and services.
“It’s time to provide U.S.-based voters with the same breadth and quality of online voter services that we have been providing to overseas and military voters for more than five years,” said OVF President and CEO Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat in a press release.
And in an attempt to establish a reliable count of Americans living outside the United States, initial research was presented by the Federal Voting Assistance Program about its Overseas Citizens Count Project.
Other participants focused on the difficulties faced in increasing military voter participation and what data can best be used to monitor how states serve military and overseas voters. And Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation (CVF) presented new data showing room for improvement when it comes to the information state election websites provide military and overseas voters.
With the progress and changes that have been made in the states, and new technology available for military an overseas voters, Dzieduszycka-Suinat pointed out the important role military and overseas voters will play in 2012.
“Our overseas and military voters can have an impact on this Presidential election. We need to assure they have timely access to absentee ballots and can exercise their right to vote.”
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