U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that Congress should pass the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (S. 1415), of which he is a cosponsor, to provide new tools to ensure that completed absentee ballots from members of the Armed Forces make it home in time to be tallied. The bill passed by voice vote yesterday out of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on which Alexander serves.
“It is very disturbing that one-fourth of the absentee ballots requested by servicemen and women serving in the military or overseas in 2008 never reached election officials to be counted,” Alexander said. “This legislation would call on the Department of Defense to make it easier to collect and transport the ballots of military and overseas voters. It’s scandalous that so many of our servicemembers’ ballots weren’t counted in the last election.”
A major provision added to the bill with Senator Alexander’s support, authorizes the Defense Department to contract with services like FedEx and UPS to expedite shipping of ballots. The measures would apply to all regularly scheduled general elections for federal office, beginning in 2008.
"What makes this difficult is that the military is spread out in countries throughout the world, and voting in U.S. elections is a very local process handled by individual counties across the country," Alexander said. "But the military has great logistics expertise. This bipartisan bill is a signal from Congress to focus on this issue. It makes the Defense Department part of the process, and that should make a big difference."
The bill amends the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986, which requires states to allow absentee voting for military service members, to increase the use of electronic methods to transmit voter registration materials and absentee ballots, while maintaining privacy for voters.