Key initiatives to make laws more uniform nationwide
Bob Carey, Director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), unveiled the 2011 Legislative Initiatives, wherein he urged States to “simplify their existing complex patchwork of regulations and procedures governing the uniformed services and overseas voters, by adopting a uniform voting process for all States and territories, in federal, state and local elections.”
Foremost this year is the recommendation by the Uniformed Law Commission for more uniformity and standardization of state voting laws for Uniformed Services, their spouses, and overseas voters, which would substantially ease the burden of compliance, improve voter success, and help reduce the variation in terms and procedures between States. FVAP joined the National Association of Secretaries of State, the National Association of State Election Directors, and many other military and overseas voting stakeholders in advising the Uniform Law Commission’s drafting committee on the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (UMOVA).
In addition, despite improvements in military and overseas voting successes brought about by changes in States’ laws, 2010 preliminary data shows that military and overseas voters still face greater difficulties in successfully casting a ballot than does the general population. Late delivery and the non- return of ballots continue to be the leading causes of failure for a good part of that population.
FVAP continues to make recommendations for legislative changes to ensure that these citizens can vote at the same rate of success as local absentee voters. Yesterday, Mr. Carey announced the Legislative Initiatives in letters sent to each of the 55 chief State or territory election officers, as well as to the State’s legislative leadership.
Federal law requires that ballots be sent to absentee voters 45 days prior to an election to provide adequate time for voters to receive, vote and return ballots. FVAP recommends States allow for the expanded use of email and online transmission for all election materials throughout the entire absentee voting process, thereby supplementing fax and postal mail, where possible.
FVAP further recommends that State law permit uniformed services and overseas voters be authorized to use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to vote in general, primary, special and runoff elections for Federal, State and local offices. Moreover, it recommends that the FWAB be accepted simultaneously as a voter registration application, an absentee ballot request and as an absentee ballot, so as to allow this highly mobile population to participate in elections far in advance of deployment, reassignment or a move.
Many U.S. citizens, who have never resided in a U.S. State or territory, are voting age children of U.S. citizens and not entitled to vote under many current State laws. FVAP urges that these U.S. citizens, who pay taxes and apply for selective service, be allowed to vote in elections for Federal offices in the State in which either parent is eligible to vote, under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
All letters and recommendations can be found on the FVAP website at http://www.fvap.gov/reference/laws/state-initiatives.html.
FVAP looks forward to working with State election officials and legislators to ensure that every UOCAVA citizen is able to successfully exercise their right to vote.
FVAP is currently seeking public input on the redesign of forms used in registration, ballot request and voting. If you would like more information go to www.fvap.gov/global/news/2011news/nr6-2011.html.
FVAP can be contacted via 1-800-438-8683. Citizens may reach FVAP toll-free from 67 countries by using the toll-free numbers listed on the FVAP website, www.fvap.gov/contact/tollfreephone.html. Questions regarding the above may also be referred to the Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program, Department of Defense, 1155 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC, 20301-1155, firstname.lastname@example.org, and on the World Wide Web at www.FVAP.gov.