Military personnel and overseas civilians face a variety of challenges to their participation as voters in U.S. elections, despite repeated congressional and state efforts to facilitate their ability to vote. These include difficulty in registering abroad, frequent address changes, slow mail delivery or ballots and ballot applications that never arrive, difficulty in obtaining information about candidates or issues, the inability to comply with notarization or verification procedures, or the voter’s failure to properly comply with non-essential requirements for absentee materials. The federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA) and Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009 (MOVE), as well as the various state efforts, have not been wholly effective in overcoming difficulties that these voters face. The federal laws do not encompass state and local elections. Further, American elections are conducted at the state and local levels under procedures that vary dramatically by jurisdiction, and many are conducted independent of the federal elections to which UOCAVA and the MOVE Act do apply. This lack of uniformity, and lack of application of the federal statutes to state and local elections, complicates efforts to more fully enfranchise these voters.
At its 2010 Annual Meeting, the national Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (UMOVA) to address these issues. UMOVA extends to state elections the assistance and protections for military and overseas voters currently found in federal law. It seeks greater harmony for the military and overseas voting process for all covered elections, over which the states will continue to have primary administrative responsibility.