Progress Continues to be Made on the Voting Front
While the 2009 MOVE Act made great strides in correcting more obstacles to military and overseas voting (ballots not received in time, inaccessibility of ballot materials on the internet, notarization requirement, etc.), not all was perfect yet. But progress continues to be made.
In response to MOVE, many states moved up their primaries to be able to respect the mandatory 45 days between sending ballots out and their required receipt by election officials.
The unexpected and prematurely welcomed elimination of the two election-cycle period of registration in the MOVE Act (because often, ballots were returned undeliverable and election officials assumed either that the voter had moved and could not be found or didn’t care about voting) raised another, unforeseen hurdle. The legislative language is not perfectly clear and a number of states appear to be interpreting MOVE to mean that voters must request a ballot not for every year but for every election in the year (primary, federal, special, run-off…). However, our longstanding champion, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York has introduced legislation to clarify this point.
In response to feedback from election officials, the Federal Voting Assistance Program revised the FPCA with which we request ballots from overseas.
Unfortunately there, too, new and unforeseen problems have arisen. The earlier distinction in voter classification from “U.S. Citizen residing temporarily / indefinitely abroad” was changed to include the notion of “intent to return”, though it was unclear whether that meant to the United States, to the voting state, or to the voting district. In addition, many voters were unwilling to declare that they “intended to return”, being unsure, or that they “did not intend to return”, fearing that that sounded like a renunciation of the United States.
FAWCO is proud to announce that, thanks to our long-standing partner Overseas Vote Foundation, military and overseas voters can once again register to vote and request their ballots directly from the FAWCO website, using the latest secure technology and benefiting from access to the continuously updated state-specific information.
For voters finding themselves in that quandary, it is possible, over the FAWCO website, to click on the home-page button (www.fawco.org) and go straight to a dedicated site where they can:
- register to vote and request an absentee ballot
- request an emergency Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot if their own ballot arrives late
- get state-specific information about eligibility and deadlines
- find full contact details for their own election official
In doing so, they are actually helping our advocacy efforts in Washington: While all personal information is instantly erased from the site the moment you click to validate your registration, certain general statistics are kept on the number of voters who have registered, the countries they register from, the states they register in… This information is invaluable when FAWCO and its partners go to Washington to talk to legislators. It gives us a picture of the overseas voting population and no one is more aware of the importance of 1 vote here and 1 vote there than a legislator facing or having just survived a close election…
And finally, on another front, the Uniform Military and Overseas Voter Act (UMOVA), approved by the Uniform Law Commission in 2010, is progressing through the states. UMOVA takes to state level the protections guaranteed by federal law (ballots must be sent out at least 45 days before the deadline for their return, states must offer at least one means of electronic transmission of ballot materials, voters incur no tax liability, etc.), and extends voting rights to Americans born abroad who have not established residency in the United States (currently 22 states and the District of Columbia permit this; for a list of those states, click here).