Maloney-Honda amendment will help improve election participation of Americans Overseas

Jun 25, 2009
Press Release

Washington DC –Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Michael Honda (D-CA) authored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 2647, which would create an Overseas Voting Advisory Board to assist the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), the lead agency empowered to assist overseas voters, whether military or civilian. H.R. 2647 is expected to be passed by the House later today.

“For many years the FVAP has failed in its mission to provide ballot access for both our military and for civilians living abroad,” Rep. Maloney said. “This new board of experts named by Congress and the Executive Branch will help the staff of FVAP stay focused on overcoming the many obstacles to overseas voting. Our goal is that by the next major election, the brave men and women of our armed forces --and all American citizens abroad-- can have their voices heard. I’m grateful that this amendment had bi-partisan support, including the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton and Ranking Member Howard “Buck” McKeon.”

Rep. Honda said, “With a new Administration that re-energized the national and worldwide electorate, and with Ms. Maloney’s continuing tireless efforts on behalf of  Military and Overseas voters, I am confident that the passage of this Amendment and the creation of an Overseas Voting Advisory Board will help end the disenfranchisement of millions of voters. The OVAB will allow us to immediately evaluate and address long-established barriers faced by overseas voters and protect the integrity of the electoral process in a practical and cost-effective and efficient manner.”

For complete text of the amendment, visit: https://www.rules.house.gov/111/SpecialRules/hr2647/39maloney_hr2647_111.pdf



Background:


The Maloney/Honda amendment would establish an Overseas Vote Advisory Board that would provide guidance and oversight to the Federal Voting Assistance Program

The Federal Voting Assistance Program is supposed to help ensure that overseas voters are counted in elections. The following is a list of recent failures of the FVAP that highlight the need for a new direction and greater oversight of the office’s efforts.

2002- The Inspector General of the Department of Defense found during the 2002 election that about 42% of military surveyed knew who their Voting Assistance Officer was.   Four years and two federal election cycles later, only 47% knew.

2004- In 2004, the Interim Voting Assistance System spent $576,000, but only 17 voters participated.

2006- The Inspector General also found that in 2006, only 33% of military absentee voters were aware of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA, the very form they are to use to request an absentee ballot).   Only 25% had received FPCAs by the DoD deadline of January 15th.   Further, only 31% of the military absentee voters surveyed were even aware of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) and its use if they didn’t receive their regular absentee ballot.

Only 5% of Unit Voting Assistance Officers during the 2006 election cycle had delivered Federal Post Card Applications to their personnel by the Secretary of Defense mandated January 15th deadline.   When pressed, the UVAOs admitted they either weren’t assigned until after the January 15th deadline, they did not even know of the requirement, or they simply ignored the requirement because they “perceived the requirement as an administrative burden.”

In 2006, 39.8% of this country’s citizens voted.   However, only 22% of the military’s active duty personnel voted.   Simply bringing military voting rates up to those of the general population would increase military voting by over 241,000 total voters.

While more than 85% of the general electorate who requested absentee ballots actually cast them,  only about 25% of the military who requested them actually got the chance to cast them.

In 2006, FVAP spent $1.1 million on the Integrated Voting Assistance System, but only eight votes were traced back to the system.

2007- In response to the FY07 Defense Appropriations Act, FVAP initiated a Request for Proposals for Military Voter Registration System which was supposed to be operational in December 2007,  but was not launched until late August 2008 just months before the 2008 election. 

2008- Of the thousands of voters who used the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) only 11% were able to obtain one from the FVAP

Over a quarter of military voters who requested a ballot did not receive a ballot.


# # #