This image (courtesy of the MacIver Institute in Wisconsin) shows the incorrect (and then corrected) deadline dates that greeted Wisconsin military voters at the Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program site as of Tuesday. For service personnel from the Badger State who might have been trying to determine when their absentee ballots would be due, the incorrect date of November 16 would, of course, have ensured that their votes would not have counted.
This isn’t the first time we’ve found problems at the FVAP, nor will it be the last. Earlier this month, FVAP officials testified before Congress about progress in implementing the 2009 Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The testimony offered little insight, as DoD officials largely dodged the questions. Three years later, key provisions of the MOVE Act still have not been put into place. As a result, the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project is forecasting a “bleak” outlook for military voting in this year’s election.
The insanity goes without any logic or reason. How can absentee ballot requests for active duty military and overseas voters go down for the same time period in 2012 as 2008? The Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act, created to increase military and overseas voter participation, was passed in 2009. The drop in absentee ballot requests demonstrates that Department of Defense’s failure to establish voting assistance centers on over half of the installations overseas has severely impacted our servicemembers abilities to register to vote.
The FVAP official proudly testified that they created a electronic system that enables military to register through their FVAP website. But their electronic gadgets were NOT required by the law. The voting assistance centers are a requirement to the federal law and the purpose of the hearing. FVAP failed to implement a simple and inexpensive means to ensure all active duty military stationed overseas were able to register to vote when they transferred into a new duty station.
For an agency tasked with providing “assistance to facilitate [service members] participation in the democratic process—regardless of where they work or live,” the FVAP is not inspiring a great deal of confidence in its ability to deliver on its mission.
Given the careful attention being paid to our government’s failures to protect military personnel’s voting rights, you might think the FVAP could at least get the deadline dates right on their website. No such luck—and now another year will pass without significant progress on ensuring our service personnel’s right to participate in our democracy.
Instead, the budget for FVAP has been over 30 million for the past 3 years, including 46 million in 2011. Those tax payers dollars were squandered away on electronic systems FVAP officials gloated about, but failed to increase voter registration for those who defend our nations freedom.
This stuff should be easy. For crying out loud – if they can’t keep track of 50 state secretaries’ of state deadlines, how are we ever going to get through the crises this winter?
Jessie Jane Duff, Gunnery Sergeant, USMC (Ret) is a member of the Concerned Veterans for America’s organizing committee.