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Eye Opener: Making Overseas Voting Easier

By Ed O'Keefe

Military servicemembers like these ones will find it easier to vote from overseas in future elections if a new Senate bill passes. (Nikki Kahn - Post)

UPDATE 2:26 p.m. ET: The measure cleared the Senate Rules Committee unanimously. It will be offered up as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, according to a spokesman.

A reminder that the bill would benefit ALL Americans living or working overseas -- regardless of employment status. Supporters are most concerned about military servicemembers deployed abroad. Currently 258,000 troops are deployed overseas, according to Defense Department statistics.


Eye Opener

Happy WEDNESDAY! (NOT Monday like it foolishly said earlier.) A Senate committee will consider a bill today making it easier for Americans overseas to vote in primary, special and general elections. The bill's chiefly designed to ease the voting burden for military servicemembers deployed overseas, but it will also benefit the millions of foreign service workers, government contractors working overseas, Peace Corps volunteers and all other expatriates.

The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act) puts most of the burden on the states to provide better online and fax options for servicemembers to request and return their ballots. The Defense Department will also have to establish procedures to collect ballot envelopes and send them by express mail.

The bill follows a disturbing report released in May that found that at least one in four ballots requested by servicemembers and other Americans living and working overseas go uncounted. The Senate Rules Committee, worked with the Congressional Research Service to survey election offices in seven states with big military populations: California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia. Of 441,000 absentee ballots requested from overseas, more than 98,000 "lost" ballots were never received by election officials.

Committee Chairman Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is the lead sponsor on the bill, which faces possible amendments and other concerns from Republican lawmakers today. Democrats hope to get the bill out of committee today and attached to the Defense Authorization Bill, which senators will vote on later this week.

Here's hoping lawmakers do whatever they can to assure that the nation's public servants working overseas have legitimate, easy ways to register to vote and then actually participate in elections in a timely fashion. Seems only fair.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't Forget: The Federal Government Career and Internship Fair is tomorrow from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the National Building Museum in Washington.

Cabinet and Staff News: Hillary Rodham Clinton gets back to work today. The probe of the investment firm started by ex-Auto Czar Steven Rattner intensifies. Timothy Geithner in the Middle East.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 15, 2009; 5:59 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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My wife and I worked in St Petersburg, Russia at the Consulate. We voted, or attempted to vote absentee in New Hampshire. The state would not mail the absentee ballot out earlier than 30 days before the election and it had to be returned by election day. Only problem was we only received mail every two weeks, so there was a minimum of 6 weeks turnaround time required for the mail to be returned to the states. Had to figure that our vote was symbolic since it obviously didn't count for anything.

Posted by: hc01 | July 15, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

My son volunteered for U.S. Army duty in May,2004. After a year in Iraq and some time at his home base in the U. S., he is now deployed in Afghanistan.

He has NEVER been able to vote in any election because, residing a vote-by-mail state, the ballots never catch up with him in time.

The fact that he is a less than enthusiastic voter may also come into play. I do believe the Army likes it that way for its troopers.

Posted by: Spectator | July 15, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I was shipping out on a research cruise for 2 months during a presidential election. My county election office couldn't get it through their heads that there's no Post Office out in the middle of the ocean. The date for mailing me the absentee ballot was after I shipped out.

Don't forget merchant mariners and oceanographers. We don't have access to mail service like the military does.

Posted by: JohnnyE1 | July 16, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

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