CSG’s Military Ballot Tracking Pilot Program

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 the U.S. Military Postal Service.  This CSG effort is groundbreaking in that no data driven analysis has ever been conducted concerning the path of travel of overseas absentee ballots.  This feedback will provide valuable research data concerning any possible systemic problems within the U.S. military overseas mailing process as well as provide some context on how to effectively improve feedback to U.S. military and civilian overseas voters on locating their ballots at every point in the election administration process. 

CSG’s 2016 Military Ballot Tracking Pilot Program findings will be released to CSG membership and the general public in calendar year 2017.

On a related note, back in October 2016, FVAP released the findings of a new research study indicating that the reliability of international mailing systems remains a barrier to U.S. citizens seeking to cast their ballots while overseas. According to the study, although the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act has increased the reliability of the overseas voting procedure, “the quality of a foreign country’s postal system can still affect the time it takes for a ballot to be transmitted and returned.” The study found that in 2014, roughly 17,000 overseas ballots were not counted due to international postal issues.  It is also estimated that without international mailing obstacles, 15 percent more ballots would have been recorded from developed countries and 37 percent more would have been recorded from developing countries. Additionally, FVAP found that overseas voters casting ballots in countries with reliable postal services were 65 percent more likely to have their vote recorded. FVAP has concluded that mitigating international postal related issues would have a significant positive impact on the overseas voting process.

FVAP will use the information collected from this study in order to better serve overseas voters in future elections. “Our new research methodology for surveying overseas citizens enables us to investigate the unique barriers this understudied population still faces," FVAP Director Matt Boehmer said.  "We've always recognized that international mailing systems, particularly those in developing countries, present challenges for overseas voters; however, we now can quantify the impact.  We will use these findings to enhance outreach campaigns to encourage earlier submission of registration and ballot request forms and urge citizens to use the backup ballot if they don’t receive their State ballot in time to return it by the deadline."

View the infographic, executive summary and research note: fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Reports/ResearchNoteInternationalMail_20161128_final.pdf

View the full Overseas Citizen Population Analysis report: fvap.gov/info/reports-surveys/overseas-citizen-population-analysis