Lawmakers guaranteeing military ballots will arrive before election day
Published: July 20, 2009
The new head of the Federal Voting Assistance Program will have a lot of work ahead of him, but last week a Senate panel tried to make that task a little less daunting by advancing a bill to ensure overseas military ballots will be delivered in plenty of time for future elections.
Getting ballots out to places like Iraq and Afghanistan has been a problem for years. A study by the Overseas Vote Foundation earlier this year found that more than half of troops stationed overseas who tried to vote in the 2008 did not received a ballot in time to fill it out and return it. More than one in four never received a ballot at all.
The new legislation approved by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee last week would require that states sent military and other overseas voters their ballots at least 45 days ahead of an election, to make sure they have enough time to cast their vote.
It would also require states to make registration and absentee ballots available online, and block states from rejecting military ballots for lacking a notary signature. The latter has been a major complaint of voting rights groups over the years, who insist that simply dismissing the requirement could result in thousands more military votes being counted.
Lawmakers on the panel said they'll try to attach the voting provisions to the Senate's version of the fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Bill, up for debate before the full chamber this week. House lawmakers have introduced similar initiatives in the past, but there's no word yet whether they'd support these specific provisions should they survive the Senate debate.