Overseas Voting Initiative

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a group of United States federal laws specifying the annual budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense and was first passed in 1961. Currently, the government is going through its process to finalize the NDAA for 2020. In reviewing the current draft documents that make up the 2020 NDAA, The Council of State Governments (CSG) and its Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI), a collaboration between CSG and the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), feels there is a missed opportunity to aid the nation’s military voters in casting their ballots while they are stationed away from their homes. Currently, there is no specific mention of the OVI Military Ballot Tracking Pilot in the NDAA documents. While the act is in conference committee, there is still a chance to ensure that the NDAA serves our overseas military citizens by implementing the Military Ballot Tracking Pilot program.

On May 1, 2019, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 124 into law.  The bill allows military and overseas citizens with a Common Access Card, or CAC, to digitally sign their Federal Post Card Application for voter registration, to request an absentee ballot, or return a voted ballot.  A CAC is only issued after a thorough vetting by the U.S. Department of Defense and is only issued to members of the armed services, civilian employees of the DOD and DOD contractors.

On May 1, 2019, Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 124 into law. Introduced by Sen. Dee Brown, SB 124 allows Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act, or UOCAVA, voters to use a digital signature via Common Access Card, or CAC, during the registration and voting process. This bill will become effective on Oct. 1, 2019.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, or FVAP, recently released a research note with in-depth analysis on election data collected from the states using a data standard crafted in conjunction with The Council of State Governments’ Overseas Voting Initiative working group. CSG and FVAP originally entered into a cooperative agreement, the Overseas Voting Initiative, or OVI, in 2013 that led to the current iteration of the agreement running through 2022. The initiative targeted data standardization as a primary focus to assist states in better reporting of military and overseas voters’ ballot transmissions.

Saturday, Dec. 16

10:30 a.m.-Noon

Success Improving Voting for Overseas Citizens

For decades, members of the U.S. military and their dependents have faced obstacles at every step of the overseas voting process: registering to vote, requesting and receiving absentee ballots, and returning absentee ballots. Over the last four years, The CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative orchestrated three advisory working groups comprised of State and local election administrators to...

The voting rights of the millions of U.S. citizens living overseas, as well as Service members and their eligible family, are protected by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).  About 75 percent of the 1.3 million service members, 700,000 family members, and an estimated 2.6 million U.S. citizens residing abroad are eligible to vote absentee through the UOCAVA process.

The Federal Post Card Application, or FPCA, and the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, or FWAB, make the voting process easier for...

On Jan. 18, the Virginia Senate introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 1490 to the Committee on Privileges and Elections calling for a pilot program that would allow the use of Common Access Card, or CAC, digital signatures on election materials. The proposed pilot program was adapted from a recent report from CSG’s Overseas Initiative, Recommendations from The CSG Overseas Voting Initiative Technology Working Group, released in early December 2016.

CSG’s Military Ballot Tracking Pilot Program deployed a robust tracking system of both blank and voted ballots (around 3,500 ballots) throughout the mail flow, including blank ballots navigating through the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Military Postal Service during the 2016 November General Election. California, Colorado, Texas, and Florida are the four states participating in the pilot program that involves coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), the U.S. Postal Service, and...

On September 21 the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), a Department of Defense organization tasked with ensuring that service members and overseas citizens are given the tools and resources necessary to vote, released the findings of the first-ever representative survey of overseas voters who requested an absentee ballot. FVAP will use their analysis of this information to better reach and provide information to overseas voters.

September 24, 2016 is the federally mandated deadline for all states to send out validly requested absentee ballots to Service members, their eligible family members and overseas U.S. citizens for the November 2016 General Election.

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