Bipartisan legislation in both the House and Senate would remove barriers to military voters in austere environments, creating a secure, auditable, electronic voting system designed to ensure their access to the ballot box.
Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the Reducing Barriers for Military Voters Act on July 13. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced the House version in May. MOAA has joined Blue Star Families, the National Military Family Association, and other advocacy groups in support of the legislation, which was included in the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee markup of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released late last month.
“Those who fight for our democracy should not face barriers to their rights to vote – especially overseas or in harm’s way,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s president and CEO. “Expanding secure electronic voting options to all servicemembers will support participation for our uniformed servicemembers wherever they are stationed.”
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The bill would require the development of “end-to-end voting services” for “uniformed services voters in locations with limited or immature postal service.” This would include voter registration along with requesting, filling out, and returning an electronic ballot.
The system would be required to generate a “verifiable and auditable vote trail” in case a recount or audit is ordered, per the legislation.
If implemented, the system would help address ballot-access issues historically faced by overseas servicemembers. A 2016 report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission found 3% of ballots covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act returned by voters were rejected, with nearly half not counted because they weren’t received on time. A 2018 Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) report found 6% of these ballots were rejected – most because of a late arrival.
"It’s a sad fact that servicemembers in faraway or isolated posts sometimes can’t participate in the very same democratic system they are fighting for," Cornyn said in a press release announcing the Senate bill. "This legislation will allow active-duty troops deployed to some of our most difficult assignments to safely and securely cast their ballots, and I'm proud to join Sen. Duckworth in introducing this important piece of bipartisan and bicameral legislation."