Navy Reservist Named Head of Pentagon's Voting Assistance Program

By Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 16, 2009; 6:18 PM

Robert H. Carey, a Navy reservist who has been an advocate for the voting rights of nearly 6 million military personnel and Americans overseas, will become director of the Pentagon's much criticized Federal Voting Assistance Program that helps those citizens vote by absentee ballot. He takes the job July 6.

Carey is a principal of Empire-Capitol Strategies consulting in New York, which he founded before being called up to active duty, and he has been a board member of the Overseas Vote Foundation. During 2004, he Norfolk shortly before the elections leaving him unable to apply for an absentee ballot. He flew back to New York at his own expense to vote in person, Carey said today, an experience repeated before the 2005 New York City elections, "and that lead me to believe there had to be a better way."

The Department of Defense program he takes on has been criticized in government audits and congressional hearings, and by private organizations, for not eliminating hurdles to getting and returning ballots. For the 2004 elections, for example, the voting assistance office spent about $26 million to test online registration and voting, but the program was shut down because of concerns about the security of voter information. The office could not provide details about what it received for that money, the Government Accountability Office said.

Another site to help military voters register and receive ballots was supposed to be ready by the end of 2007 but did not launch until August 2008.

Following the presidential election last year, the Pentagon announced it was looking internally for a new director and a bipartisan group of legislators urged the search expand to outside applicants.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), who was among those legislators, said, "I am pleased that [Defense] Secretary [Robert M.] Gates has done a thorough search."

She added that Carey will bring fresh ideas and workable solutions to improve ballot access for all Americans living abroad."

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