Reps. Maloney and Honda Introduce Bill to Bring Oversight to Voting Program Office for Americans Abroad
WASHINGTON, DC – Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Michael Honda (D-CA) have reintroduced the “Fixing the Federal Voting Assistance Program Act” (H.R. 1659) which would strengthen oversight of the Federal office charged with helping overseas military and civilian voters.
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In elections past, the Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP) has not effectively improved access to the ballot for thousands of overseas voters, both civilian and military (see list of the FVAP’s recent lapses, below). H.R. 1659 would create an oversight board to monitor the office’s efforts and ensure accountability by requiring Senate confirmation of the program’s director.
“It’s troubling that Americans abroad, from the men and women in our armed forces to business professionals to Peace Corps volunteers cannot exercise their right to vote,” Maloney said. “We need to bring attention and focus to this office so that we make sure Americans abroad can vote. There is another election just around the corner but we only seem to address these issues after it is too late. This bill will address these issues now by providing oversight for a federal program that has struggled in its mission to ensure greater ballot access for Americans living overseas.”
“As a former Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador, I know how difficult it is for overseas Americans to cast a meaningful ballot,” said Rep. Mike Honda (CA-15). “The statistics are daunting and unforgivable. The time is long overdue for greater accountability and oversight over the Federal Voting Assistance Program, so that our soldiers, scientists, volunteers, and entrepreneurs overseas may cast a meaningful ballot.”
Specifically, H.R. 1659 would make the Director of the Federal Voting Assistance Office a Presidential nominee confirmable by the Senate, and create an advisory board to strengthen oversight of the office to ensure better access to the ballot by overseas military and civilian voters.
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.
- 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.
- In 2004, the Interim Voting Assistance System spent $576,000, but only 17 voters participated.
- 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.
- 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. In additional there have been numerous reports (xvi) that the final product available on the FVAP website is much less helpful than other websites that are available, this after months of delay.
- 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
i U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General, DoD Compliance With the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, Report No. D-2003-072 (Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003) p. 13.
ii U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General, DoD Compliance With the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, Report No. D-2003-072 (Washington, D.C., March 31, 2003) p. 13.
U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General, 2006 Evaluation of the Federal Voting Assistance Program in the Department of Defense, Report No. IE-2007-004 (Washington, D.C., March 31, 2007), p. 17.
iii EAC, UOCAVA Survey Report Findings (Washington, D.C., September 2007): 992,034 total UOCAVA ballot requests were made. Of those categorized by local election officials, 66.5% were cast by military voters. Extrapolating that percentage indicates 695,703 military UOCAVA ballot requests were made (Table 22). 263,793 total UOCAVA ballots were cast. Of those categorized, 66.4% were cast by military UOCAVA voters. Extrapolating that indicates 175,518 military UOCAVA votes were cast. 175,518 ÷ 695,703 is 25.23%.
iv U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General, 2006 Evaluation of the Federal Voting Assistance Program in the Department of Defense, Report No. IE-2007-004 (Washington, D.C., March 31, 2007), p. 17.
vii Ibid., p. 7.
viii Ibid., p. 8.
ix U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), UOCAVA Survey Report Findings (Washington, D.C., March 2006), p. 3.
x Defense Manpower Data Center, Human Resources Strategic Assessment Program, 2006 Survey Results on Voting Assistance Among Military Members and DoD Civilian Employees, Survey Note No. 2007-010 (Washington, D.C.: May 7, 2007), p. 2.
xi Total active duty military population is 1,356,201, not including activated reserve component personnel, nor non-Department of Defense uniformed personnel (From David Chu, 2006 Population Representation in the Military Services (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness, February 1, 2008), tables B-22 and B-30, from https://www.defenselink.mil/prhome/PopRep_FY06/ (accesses March 4th, 2008)).
xii 11,183,486 domestic civilian absentee ballots cast divided by 13,039,008 domestic civilian absentee ballots requested; EAC, March 2006, table 26, page 30, and table 30b, page 49, respectively.
xiii EAC, UOCAVA Survey Report Findings (Washington, D.C., September 2007): 992,034 total UOCAVA ballot requests were made. Of those categorized by local election officials, 66.5% were cast by military voters. Extrapolating that percentage indicates 695,703 military UOCAVA ballot requests were made (Table 22). 263,793 total UOCAVA ballots were cast. Of those categorized, 66.4% were cast by military UOCAVA voters. Extrapolating that indicates 175,518 military UOCAVA votes were cast. 175,518 ÷ 695,703 is 25.23%.
xv “Solicitation W91QUZ-07-R-0021 Modification,” Federal Business Operations Daily Issue, FBO #2067 (Washington, DC: July 25, 2007) at <https://www.fbodaily.com/archive/2007/07-July/25-Jul-2007/FBO-01349623.htm> (accessed March 8, 2008).
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