A MILITARY VOTING UPDATE
A MILITARY VOTING UPDATE
AUGUST 27, 2012
THE MOVE ACT
e MOVE Act attempted to provide military voters witha more systematic way to register, request an absentee ballotand update their addresses—one that would mimic thesupport provided to civilians at their local driver’s licensebranches or social services o
ces and eliminate the incon-sistencies of the previous VAO program.At the core of this new requirement, the MOVE Actrequired DOD to create voting assistance o
ces on everymilitary installation.
ese installation voting assistanceo
ces were supposed to provide military voters with anopportunity to register, update their voting address, andrequest and absentee ballot “as part of the administrativein-processing…upon arrival at the new duty station.”
Inother words, under the new system, military voters wouldreceive voting assistance each time they moved to a newduty station.Additionally, upon approval by the Secretary of Defense,these o
ces were to be operated in a manner consistentwith the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA, oftenreferred to as Motor Voter).
This latter requirementwas important because it guaranteed that military voterswould receive the same type and level of assistance routinelyprovided to civilians at their local driver’s license branchesor social service o
ces.Under the NVRA, these services include: (1) distributing the voter registration forms to each person who visits theo
ce; (2) providing assistance when completing the form;and (3) sending completed forms to the appropriate electiono
In addition, if an individual declines such assistance,the o
ce must provide the voter with a declination form.Finally, to ensure accountability, these o
ces must compiledata regarding the number of completed registrationforms and declinations.
A BLEAK PICTURE FOR MILITARY VOTERS
e absentee ballot data for 2012 paints a bleak picture for military voters.
While the MOVE Act should haveincreased opportunities for military members to register and request an absentee ballot, the 2012 pre-electiondata shows a remarkable decrease in such requests from military voters, especially when that data is compared todata from 2008.
Take, for example, the low number of absentee ballots that have been requested thus far in Virginia, North Carolina,and Ohio. Of the 126,251 active duty military members and spouses in Virginia, only 1,746 have requestedabsentee ballots for the November election. Similarly, in North Carolina and Ohio, less than 2,000 absenteemilitary ballots have been requested by military members and their spouses in those states. Overall, in thesethree states, less than 2 percent of eligible military voters (5,411 out of 288,961) have requested absentee ballots.Data from other states, while not as extreme, still raises signiﬁcant concerns.
e fact is that an incredibly smallpercentage of military voters are requesting absentee ballots for the 2012 election, even though a majority of military members (roughly, two-thirds) will need to vote by absentee ballot.Florida—the state with the highest percentage of absentee ballot requests so far—has received absentee ballotrequests from 16% percent of military voters eligible to vote in that state. Other states like Alaska, Colorado,and Illinois have absentee ballot request rates in the 5 to 7 percent range.
e chart below contains absenteeballot data from 8 states.