DOD surveying overseas military personnel on satisfaction with voting
Stars and Stripes December 12, 2004
WASHINGTON — The presidential election may be over, but the Department of Defense still is trying to get out the vote.
This month, the department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program mailed out post-election surveys to military personnel serving overseas to see if they were able to vote in the November election and what could help them better participate in future elections.
More than 118 million Americans voted in November, about 12 percent more voters than in the 2000 election. Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said officials don’t yet know if military voters followed that trend.
“However, the large number of individuals assisted via phone and e-mail indicates a high level of interest in the election,” she said.
Before the November election, more than 230,000 absentee ballots were sent to troops serving outside the United States, according to the Military Postal Service Agency. About 180,000 were returned.
A Pentagon study following the 2000 election found that about 29 percent of military personnel who wanted to vote did not get the chance, either because absentee ballots were not available or they received the document too late.
In response, Krenke said, Defense Department officials worked closely with the U.S. Postal Service to speed up delivery and return of those ballots and increased access to federal write-in absentee ballots, used for troops who did not receive the proper paperwork from their local precincts.
The troops receiving surveys were selected randomly, and participation is voluntary. Troops who receive the mailed surveys either can return the paper form or log their responses on the Internet. Voting program officials expect about 30,000 to take part in the survey.
Krenke said officials will use those responses to decide what changes helped troops the most and what other services are needed.
Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, each state is required to report the number of absentee ballots sent out to troops and how many were received back, so military officials can suggest improvements to the systems.
Those figures are due to the federal Election Administration Commission by Feb 7. Data from the Defense Department’s election survey should be available in spring.
An analysis of the successes and shortcomings of those military absentee ballot programs is due to Congress by the end of 2005.