Overseas Voting Initiative

Voting in off years is important for overseas military personnel. With the 2014 midterm elections over, military personnel residing overseas might think voting is over until the general election in 2016. Not true. Odd numbered years also hold important elections. 2015 will see elections for school boards, mayors, judges, and other important offices and issues. These elections have a direct impact on citizens. Overseas military personnel help defend the right to vote, and they should exercise the right for themselves.

The Florida Legislature is considering a bill to aid overseas voting by expanding the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to State and local elections.

The new advertising campaign for the Federal Voting Assistance Program makes clear its mission for military and civilian voters living overseas: “Americans make small votes every day and we want to make sure that you get your most important vote home.” The program, a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, is using that campaign—in addition to an active social media presence and other efforts—to spread the word about the resources it is providing for citizens living overseas, according to Scott Wiedmann, the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s director of communications.

In the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election there were 221,925,820 eligible U.S. registered stateside voters, 58.7 percent of whom cast their ballots successfully. In the same election there were 4,737,600 eligible registered U.S. military and overseas voters, but only 12.7 percent of these voters actually returned ballots.

For decades, members of the U.S. military and their dependents experienced problems at every step of the overseas voting process: registering to vote, requesting and receiving absentee ballots, and returning absentee ballots. This eCademy session provides an overview of the challenges for overseas voting, as well as how CSG, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, is helping to improve the U.S. military and overseas voting process through CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote in 1932 that a “single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Brandeis’ “laboratory of democracy” concept is very relevant to Alaska’s successful online ballot delivery and return voting system. Alaska is the only state that will allow its registered voters to receive and cast their ballots electronically for the Nov. 4 midterm election.

In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, nearly 60 percent of registered stateside voters cast their ballots successfully. In the same election, only 18 percent of registered U.S. military and overseas voters requested ballots and slightly fewer than 13 percent of those voters actually returned ballots. This is not a new problem, according to Kamanzi Kalisa, director of the new Overseas Voting Initiative at The Council of State Governments. “For decades, members of the U.S. military and their dependents have experienced problems at every step of the overseas voting process—from registering to vote and requesting or receiving absentee ballots to returning those absentee ballots,” said Kalisa.

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