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Registering Military and Overseas Citizens to Vote

  • Adam Skaggs
Published: July 16, 2009

Members of the United States armed forces and their famil­ies face unique chal­lenges to parti­cip­at­ing in our elec­tions. If their votes are to count and their voices are to be heard, these citizens must over­come hurdles not faced by most Amer­ic­ans. They deserve better: the nation should make it a prior­ity to remove barri­ers to polit­ical parti­cip­a­tion for those who dedic­ate them­selves to defend­ing our demo­cracy.

Two aspects of the elec­tion system create prob­lems for milit­ary voters and their famil­ies. First, many of these citizens have diffi­culty with voter regis­tra­tion: earlier this year, the recently appoin­ted Director of the Federal Voting Assist­ance Program in the Depart­ment of Defense, Bob Carey, test­i­fied before the United States Senate that the regis­tra­tion rate for milit­ary voters is almost 20 percent­age points lower than that for all Amer­ic­ans. Carey explained that “[t]he milit­ary voter regis­tra­tion process is excep­tion­ally complex, varies in its dead­lines from State to State, is tied in with the absentee ballot applic­a­tion process, and is subject to excep­tional oppor­tun­it­ies for errors.”