Getting Our MOVE On?
There is a Presidential Election coming up in about a month and a half and we’re still dealing with voting issues. The purpose of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) signed by President
Obama on October 28, 2009 is to help military serving overseas and citizens who live abroad vote in U.S. elections.
Pamela Mitchell, acting director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, went before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, recently, to give an accounting of the program. Mitchell was joined by Ambassador Kenneth Moorefield, the Defense Department’s deputy inspector general for plans and operations, to give testimony before the committee.
A report released at the end of August, the Department of Defense Inspector General finds a failure to comply with the MOVE Act by not establishing voter registration offices at military installations. Presently the DOD is only about halfway through the job, three years after the passage of the MOVE Act.
The focus on the MOVE Act has been with how the states comply with the law. However, implementation of the act has been spotty, as only 15 states have fully implemented it. For instance, in California, only 15 of its 58 counties comply with the law, resulting in military absentee ballots not being counted as they were received too late in previous elections. Yet, 90 percent of absentee ballots sent to civilian voters living abroad are returned and counted, compared to 66 percent of absentee ballots mailed by overseas military personnel.
According to reports, MOVE Act co-sponsor U.S. Senator John Cornyn is sending Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a letter in which he says;
“With great disappointment, we have concluded that the Department of Defense stands in clear violation of a central provision of this federal law …The price of [DoD's] failure to follow the law will likely be paid this November by military service members and their families.”
Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project, a group who are advocates for military voters are equally concerned. MCP spokesperson Eric Eversole in an interview with the Washington Times said;
“It’s disappointing. This [IVAO requirement] was the will of Congress … Here you have an agency [the Pentagon] that basically said to Congress, “We’re not going to do what you told us to do. We think we know more about voter registration than you do and we’re not going to do it.”"
Those advocates for military voting cite a recent report showing that 2012 military absentee voting requests are down sharply from 2008. Ones such instance is in the state of Virginia. Of the 126,251 active duty military members and spouses in Virginia, only 1,746 have requested absentee ballots for the November election. The report also highlights, North Carolina and Ohio, where less than 2,000 absentee military ballots have been requested by military members and their spouses in those states. In total of the three states cited, less than 2 percent of eligible military voters (5,411 out of 288,961) have requested absentee ballots.