One thing to be on the look out for this election cycle is whether the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act) — passed in 2009 with the goal of making it easier for soldiers and military personnel stationed overseas to have their vote counted — actually increases the number of military votes and has an effect on the midterm elections.
While the MOVE Act’s requirements appear reasonable enough — the most consequential provision being a mandate that states allow 45 days for ballots to reach military personnel — not all states have complied with them. Instead, a number of states have sought exemption from the law and some speculate that this implementation failure will infringe on the voting rights of those protecting the country.
Of the ten states plus the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands that have applied for waivers from the MOVE Act’s 45 day requirement, five states were approved to be exempted: Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.
“The states granted waivers presented thorough and comprehensive plans to protect the voting opportunities for military and overseas voters,” said Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) in a Defense Department press release. “In each case, we determined that the combination of measures presented provide military and overseas voters sufficient time to receive, mark and return their ballots so they can be counted, and thus met the requirement for receiving a waiver under the MOVE Act.”
Eric Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project and former litigation attorney in the voting section of the U.S. Department of Justice, is not pleased with this development. Eversole told The Daily Caller that it is imperative for every military vote to be counted and it is unconscionable that the Department of Justice did not demand that every state comply with the MOVE Act.
“There is no doubt that military absentee ballots can absolutely define who wins and loses. That was certainly the case in 2000 in Florida with the presidential election,” he said. “And the one thing that we’ve seen thus far in the election cycle is that there are a lot of close races and there are going to be a lot of close races. And these votes, in fact, could make the difference in a lot of these House and Senate races.”
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, contends that while U.S. troops are now more likely to have their votes count, they probably will not have much effect on the races, due to low turnout and the inevitable — in military parlance — Charlie Foxtrot of election years.
“Under the MOVE Act, the troops have a better chance of having their votes cast, but as all of us who study elections know, the perfect and the possible clash during most election seasons. There’s more time since the September primaries were pushed into August in some cases, but I’ll bet there are still snafus,” Sabato wrote in an e-mail to TheDC. “In general, midterm elections do not draw an especially high military turnout. The election for the commander-in-chief in two years will produce far more military votes.”
NEXT: Is the MOVE Act effective and will it be enforced?Captain Sam Wright, Service Members Law Center director, told TheDC that while overall the MOVE Act is a step in the right direction, it will only do good if states adhere to the requirements and are held to account. “I think it’s all very favorable, but of course it depends on enforcement. I wish we had better information about it,” he said.
At the end of the day, Eversole says it doesn’t matter how close a race is or if the ballots coming in from overseas will change the outcome of a particular election contest. To Eversole and the MVP Project, it is a matter of principle. Those defending America’s ability to maintain democracy ought not relinquish the privilege to vote due to the fact that it may be inconvenient.
“From our perspective, we want the ballots to count regardless of how close the race is. Whether a race is close or whether a particular state has some toss-up elections, in our view, that doesn’t lessen the Department of Justice’s responsibility to go in and make sure that the state’s actually complied with the law,” he said.