We Need a Better Way for Soldiers to Vote

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Defense Department survey on military voting found that 79 percent of military personnel tried to vote in the 2004 presidential election and that 73 percent of those actually voted [news story, Dec. 7].

But the survey obscured an important fact: Disenfranchisement of military and overseas absentee voters remains high. Between 30 and 45 percent of these potential voters failed to receive their absentee ballots or received them too late to matter, according to surveys by the National Defense Committee and the Overseas Vote Foundation.

About 1.4 million active-duty members of the uniformed services and 1 million spouses and family members are eligible for absentee voting. In addition, an estimated 4 million U.S. civilians who live abroad are eligible. Yet most states still conduct absentee voting through U.S. mail via a cumbersome three-step process.

The most difficult aspect of military absentee voting is the transmission of the unmarked ballot from the election officials to overseas military voters, because these voters frequently change location.

It is troubling that the Pentagon office charged with administering the absentee voting program also is the one assessing its effectiveness. Clearly, the process needs to be updated with better technology and systems. But the people with the responsibility for undertaking this mission don't see the problem or want to cover it up. This will not lead to a solution.



Executive Director

Overseas Vote Foundation

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