Group Finalizes Recommendations to Improve Military and Overseas Voting Process

With the 2016 primary election approaching, voting procedures are taking center stage again. CSG’s Overseas Voting Initiative recently had its fifth working group meeting in Newport Beach, Calif., and finalized policy recommendations intended to improve voting processes for U.S. military and civilians overseas. Policy group members will present the recommendations at the 2015 CSG National Conference, Dec. 10-13, in Nashville.
In 2014, CSG entered into a four-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program to improve the voting process for U.S. military members and U.S. citizens overseas. 
Matt Boehmer, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, said he is committed to ensuring that the votes of military members and their families are counted.    
“FVAP is excited that these absentee voting recommendations and best practices will soon be available to the CSG membership and outreach staff,” Boehmer said. “States will quickly realize the value and relative ease in adopting the practices, which will provide a greater level of service to military members, their families and overseas citizens.” 
Meagan McCord Wolfe, overseas voting coordinator for Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board and a member of the working group, said she is concerned that states aren’t equipped with the necessary information to improve the overseas voting process.  
“In Wisconsin, we have 1,853 municipalities who each process and administer ballots to their military and overseas voters,” Wolfe said. “It is important for us to collaborate with other election officials and states to develop best practices that can be used to train our local election officials so that all military and overseas voters have a consistent experience regardless of which municipality they request their ballot from.” 
CSG’s working group has discussed the need for clear, concise and accessible written and verbal communications, targeting U.S. military and civilian voters living overseas at every step in the voting process. 
The working group recommends that election officials designate a portion of their election office websites and social media/online platforms to content specifically designed for U.S. military and citizens overseas because the Internet is the primary platform through which election officials communicate with overseas voters. These websites should be easily accessible and compatible with all platforms, including laptops, tablet computers and smartphones, and incorporate responsive web design. 
The working group also recommends that state and local election officials provide notice for both the acceptance and the rejection of an overseas absentee ballot. If the ballot is rejected, information should be provided to an overseas voter that details errors and how to correct the problems, as permitted under state law. 
Keith Ingram, director of Elections in Texas and a member of CSG’s working group, said he is confident that the policy recommendations will improve the overseas voting process. 
“When thinking about communicating with military and overseas voters, it is important to keep in mind that the majority of military voters are young and they obtain and consume information in a different way than some of their older peers,” Ingram said. “Our group’s communication policy recommendations are geared toward making voting information and instructions accessible and useful to younger voters.
We are trying to meet them where they are to the fullest extent possible.”

Recommendations From the CSG Overseas Voting Initiative Policy Working Group
View Report >>