On November 20, 2013, the House Committee on House Administration held a hearing on the military and overseas vote from 2012. Testimony was provided by the Honorable Ross Miller, Secretary of State, Nevada and Matt Boehmer, Director, Department of Defense Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP).
Recognizing that absent members of the military, their families and U.S. citizens living abroad face unique challenges to participating in U.S. elections, Congress created a set of protections to make voting in Federal elections easier and more accessible. These protections are codified in the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. § 1973ff, et seq., hereafter “UOCAVA”), most recently amended by the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.
The mission of the Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP) is to provide assistance to service members and overseas citizens in exercising choice. First, the program directly through voter education campaigns raises awareness of the right to vote by absentee ballot and by offering easy-to-use online tools and resources. Second, it assists the Military Services and the Department of State (DOS) by providing training tools and other resources to support their specific voting assistance programs. And third, FVAP assists State and local election officials to ensure they are aware of the requirements of the Act, and to support their efforts to expand services provided to absent military and overseas citizen voters.
The two primary obstacles faced by military and overseas citizen voters are time and complexity. For absentee voters, the voting process may take significantly more time compared to that of the general public. Absentee voting rules are complex. For example, the deadline for ballot requests can vary within a State, based on the geographic location of the voter, and the eligibility of the voter to participate in local elections can vary based on whether the voter is a Service member or a civilian. Military families face an additional challenge given they are an especially mobile population, often moving between or during election ballot mailing periods. To successfully receive, mark and return their ballots, these voters must keep their registration and ballot request information current with their local election official — an important action to be sure, but only one of many important tasks for families when moving or when preparing for a loved one’s deployment.
Members of the military have a “common access card” with individualized PIN numbers which allows them to receive their ballot and cast the vote and it is electronically returned to the voter’s jurisdiction of residence. The emails are encrypted and secure, the same system used to file Federal income tax.
Read more information on voting rights from Paralyzed Veterans of America