Military voting jumped last year, report finds

October 18, 2011

Buoyed by a new law that requires states to make absentee ballots more accessible to military personnel serving overseas, troops voted at a higher rate than the general population in last year’s midterm elections, according to a new report.

Overall, 46 percent of the military cast ballots, a 21 percent increase from the 2006 midterms and slightly higher than the 45.5 percent of the general population that voted last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

FVAP is a Pentagon office that oversees the distribution of absentee ballots to troops and their spouses.

Voter registration last year among service members also was higher than that of the general public; 65 percent of Americans registered to vote in 2010, but 77 percent of troops did so.

Despite the increases, FVAP said that more than 112,000 military voters never received ballots they requested in 2010, a 12 percent increase from 2008.

The report’s authors credited Congress for passing legislation in 2009 that forced states to mail absentee ballots 45 days before Election Day to Americans who want to vote from abroad.

Bolstered by the new law, the Pentagon urged troops to register for ballots, and the Justice Department filed several lawsuits or reached out-of-court settlements with some states that did not comply.

As a result, the law “substantially improved the opportunity for active duty military voters to successfully cast a ballot,” the report said.

For the first time, FVAP also surveyed military spouses and found that 52 percent of them voted in the 2010 elections. A majority of them, 57 percent, voted in person; among military personnel, just 33 percent voted in person, the report said.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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