U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that he is cosponsoring the Military Voting Protection Act of 2008 (S. 3073), which would provide new tools to ensure that completed absentee ballots from members of the Armed Forces make it home in time to be tallied.
“It is very disturbing that nearly half of the one million absentee ballots requested by servicemen and women serving in the military or overseas in 2006 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 nearly half of our servicemembers’ ballots weren’t counted in the last election.”
In the 2006 elections, 660,000 overseas ballots, including military men and women and civilians abroad, were not counted with 47.6 percent of overseas military ballots left out of the voting process.
A major provision of the bill, introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), 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.
"Part of the problem 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 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."
S. 3073 amends the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986, which requires states to allow absentee voting for military service members, by:
• Directing the Defense Department to make provisions for the collection and transportation of the absentee ballots of military overseas voters.
• Allowing DoD to contract with express shipping carriers to the extent practicable.
• Providing for the tracking of the ballot shipments, so military personnel can ensure that their ballot is properly delivered.