One of the sad truths about being a deployed member of the armed service is that you miss important dates such as weddings and birthdays. One of the more disappointing truths about serving in the military is that when it comes to elections, many of our votes are not counted. An alarming statistic from the Heritage Foundation is that fewer than 20% of military personnel were able to cast votes that were counted in 2008. The Republican Party continues to believe in a strong military and improving military members’ voting procedures would go a long way in proving that support. I would recommend they show the troops how they care by simplifying the absentee voting process and allowing their voices to be heard.
The government has some legal statutes in place to facilitate military voting, like the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). The Department of Justice helps oversee this program and enforce its compliance. The law states that uniformed service members must be allowed to vote absentee and “ballots should be mailed to overseas addresses at least 45 days prior to an election in order to ensure adequate time for a ballot to reach a voter and be returned.”
Even with these laws in place, many military absentee ballots are thrown out and, frequently, it is because the ballots arrive after the election deadline. With the sacrifice of so many in the military, it is reprehensible that many states do not allow time for members to mail back their ballots.
Congress created the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 to help with the voting process for military families. However, it is clear from the statistic of military votes counted in 2008 that HAVA hasn’t helped like it was supposed to. Better legislation needs to be put in place to correct this immediately. Fortunately, on the House side, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is trying to change that with his bill, H.R. 2393, the Military Voting Protection Act of 2009. The main points of the bill are to better inform deploying military members and their family of the absentee process and use express mail delivery to expedite the operation. Furthermore, on the Senate side, Senator John Cornyn has introduced S. 1026 and has 34 sponsors of essentially the same bill.