Is Obama Administration Planning to Disenfranchise Our Overseas Military Voters?
In early 2009, bipartisan legislation was passed to reform state abuses in not providing reasonable time for mailing, receiving and counting military-voter absentee ballots. Congress then mandated that all absentee ballots must be mailed to military members at least 45 days before an election unless the state seeks a limited waiver from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (such as when some states mail absentee ballots 35 days before an election, but add 10 days after the election to finalize ballot counting).
The New Rub... [emphasis added]
Since February, the section has continued to advocate a position that would grant waivers freely and even grant them if a state failed to provide a military voter with 45 days to receive and return his or her ballot. In other words, notwithstanding Congress' clear mandate, the section continues to argue that military voters should have less than 45 days to receive and return their absentee ballots. - Eric Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project, formerly a litigation attorney in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the elections of 2008, over 17,000 thousand military votes were never even tallied. In the Minnesota race alone uncounted military votes could have decided the outcome in the U.S. Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.
The Washington Times Tuesday published:
By most accounts, the 2008 presidential election was a disaster for military voters. Thousands of them were disenfranchised when their absentee ballots were sent to wrong addresses, lost in the mail or mailed too close to the election for the ballot to be returned. To make matters worse, thousands of ballots were rejected by local election officials because the ballot - through no fault of the military voter - arrived after the election deadline....
Nearly every military-voting expert agrees that absentee ballots must be sent to overseas military voters at least 45 days before an election to give those voters sufficient time to receive and return their ballots. The Military Postal Service Agency goes one step further and recommends that absentee ballots be sent to war zones 60 days before an election.
Unfortunately, states have been slow to revamp their voting laws to accommodate a 45-day mailing standard. Before the 2008 election, at least 10 states and the District of Columbia provided military voters with just 35 days or fewer to receive and return their ballots. Overall, the Pew Center on the States found that "more than a third of states [did] not provide military voters stationed abroad with enough time to vote or [were] at high risk of not providing enough time."
In states such as Minnesota, which mailed absentee ballots just 30 days before the election, military absentee ballots were twice as likely to be rejected as nonmilitary absentee ballots. The sole reason for this higher rejection rate was that more than 500 military and overseas ballots arrived after the election and had to be rejected. Had Minnesota mailed absentee ballots at least 45 days before the election, most of those votes would have been counted and could have made a difference in the state's historic Senate race.
The authority responsible for protecting military voters, the Voting Section, decided not to pursue those states even though federal law (i.e., the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) gives the Voting section wide latitude to protect military voters. Applicable law requires only proof that a state did not provide a military member with reasonable opportunity (read sufficient time) to vote by absentee ballot.
Overwhelming evidence on mail delivery times means such cases were actionable.
Labels: absentee ballots