Improving State Elections for Military, Overseas Voters

For decades, members of the U.S. military and their dependents living abroad experienced problems at every step of the overseas voting process: registering to vote, requesting and receiving absentee ballots, and returning absentee ballots. These voters face unique voting obstacles due to their mobility, the time required to transmit ballots, and the patchwork of rules and regulations required by the 55 sets of election laws of the states and territories. What’s more, state and local election administrators face challenges associated with maintaining accurate registration rolls for a highly mobile and transient population, some of whom reside in remote areas of the world.

In late 2013, CSG and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program entered into a four-year partnership to improve the return rate of overseas absentee ballots from service members and U.S. citizens abroad. The CSG Overseas Voting Initiative is charged with developing targeted and actionable improvements to the voting process for the 1.3 million members of the uniformed services and Merchant Marines stationed away from home, their 700,000-plus eligible family members, and the 4.3 million U.S. citizens living, studying and working overseas.

Join the Overseas Voting Initiative on Friday, Dec. 11 at 8 a.m. CST, where members of the initiative’s Policy Working Group will share their experiences in working to ensure all Americans’ voices are heard on Election Day. The CSG Overseas Voting Initiative’s Policy Working Group also will distribute a new report, “Improving State Elections for Military, Overseas Voters,” which includes a series of recommendations for state leaders to better enfranchise this important voting population, including strategies to improve communication with overseas voters, extend and improve the use of the Federal Post Card Application, expand online voter registration opportunities, and improve engagement with the U.S. military community.

While some recommendations may require changes to state law and are intended for state level policymakers, the majority of the recommendations were designed to be easily implemented by state and local election officials. The report aims to provide state policymakers and state and local election officials with actionable recommendations that will better serve our military and overseas voters and improve the rate of returned, counted ballots.

The CSG Overseas Voting Initiative continues its work through December 2017 and will issue additional recommendations from its Technology Working Group, as well as the results of a comprehensive review of strategies to improve the accuracy and consistency of voter data through data standardization. For additional information, please visit the CSG Overseas Voting Initiative webpage at www.csg.org/OVI.