Outrage: Pentagon Grants Five States Waivers from MOVE Act

In Washington, politicians always like to release bad news on a Friday, as fewer people notice. Today, the Pentagon announced that it had granted the waiver requests of five states seeking to escape requirements to protect military voters.

I have written previously here at PJM that all waiver requests should be denied. Unfortunately, if you are an overseas servicemember from Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, or Washington, the protections in the MOVE Act aren’t going to apply to you this year. And if you are from one of the states who still aren’t in compliance with MOVE -- like Colorado, Wisconsin, or Alaska -- don’t be surprised if you get scant help from Attorney General Eric Holder.

Waivers can be granted from MOVE only if states find a way to make sure the votes of servicemembers are still counted.

Washington, despite having plenty of time after an August 17 primary to get the job done, received a waiver today. Washington was unwilling to change their schedule of ballot preparation to allow for 45 days mailing time. Though modern printing technology makes the Washington waiver unnecessary, it was granted.

Delaware election director Elaine Manlove says the state can get ballots out in time -- but applied for a waiver “just in case.” Delaware’s waiver was motivated by caution, but caution isn’t a basis for the granting of a waiver. The law says “undue hardship.” However, waiver granted.

Rhode Island shared Delaware’s risk aversion: Spokesman Chris Barnett says they asked for a waiver in case they had a recount in the primary. A hypothetical “undue hardship.” Waiver granted.

Since MOVE passed last October, Massachusetts did nothing to adjust their late September 14 primary to comply. (This was the same state that introduced and passed legislation in mere days so that Senator Paul Kirk could be sworn in to vote for ObamaCare. The legislature previously stripped Republican Mitt Romney of the power to appoint replacements and required a special election.) It’s a shame soldiers aren’t as important as Senator Kirk’s vote was. Waiver granted.

New York sought a waiver. No surprise there: seven years after the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, New York still wasn’t in compliance. Waiver granted.

Calls to Bob Carey, the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), were not returned in time for this article, but a spokesman told me that these waivers are in compliance with the MOVE Act standards.

FVAP never published the waiver requests prior to today -- including the Hawaii request received back on March 24, 2010. Many state officials, such as Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, made no mention whatsoever of the waiver requests on their websites.

Given that few things could make Americans angrier than another 17,000 lost votes from soldiers -- as happened in 2008 -- the secrecy was understandable.

Some waivers place undue faith in technology to compensate for the delays. One waiver grant cites the use of the electronic “FVAP Voting Wizard Project” and a state’s comprehensive plans to use fax and email transmission of ballot forms. Yet Congress expressly rejected such work-arounds when debating the MOVE Act in 2009.

Congress rejected computer solutions because they knew that forward deployed troops don’t have computers.

Those most hurt by reliance on technology as a solution are the frontline soldiers like the Navy Seals, the 10th Mountain Division, the Marines, and others who hear the sounds of bullets whistling by but don't see a computer screen for weeks. They eat MREs and sleep under the stars -- they don’t carry laser printers and iPads. Waivers based on technological solutions are useful to servicemembers back in Wiesbaden, Okinawa, and Molesworth. But those solutions don’t help those directly fighting the War on Terror.

Anyone remember that war?