FVAP recommends 4 changes to NC law to help overseas military voters

Four good ideas, one really bad one. A Federal agency is recommending four changes to North Carolina law to help our overseas military vote. The Federal Voting Assistance Program also endorses having troops send voted ballots by “unsecure electronic means” as long as the troops volunteer.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program has recommended four changes:

  1. Expanded Use of Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot,
  2. Participation with Uniform Law Commission Effort and Adoption of Recommendations,
  3. Removal of Notarization and Witnessing Requirements…
  4. Enfranchise Citizens, Who Have Never Resided in the U.S.

In the meanwhile, the NC State Board of Elections is seeking ways to immediately help our military voters. On Oct 8, 2009, the NC SBoE recently sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Defense, Robert Gates asking the DoD to designate the DOD as a voter registration agency in our state.

Details of The Federal Voting Assistance Program Recommendations
FVAP recommendations are in this letter dated Oct 7. See excerpts below, and note that a long term goal is to transmit voted ballots electronically :

Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) letter to North Carolina State Board of Elections, dated October 7, 2009

Given our new focus, FVAP is realigning in Legislative Initiative recommendations to the States. The enclosed initiatives focus on sending ballots to voters at least 45 days before the election. FVAP also recommends the expanded use of email and online retransmission for all election materials throughout the entire absentee voting process, replacing fax and postal mail where possible. Until secure electronic transmission of voted ballots has been established, we recommend that States allow voters to return static copies of voted ballots through available electronic means. However, the decision to send a voted ballot by unsecure electronic means must rest with the individual voter based on the voter’s desire to cast his or her vote electronically or to ensure the secrecy of their ballot.

Email and online capabilities are widely available to Uniformed Service members and overseas citizens, vastly eclipsing the usefulness of faxing. After a September 2008 visit to military bases in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, a delegation of six State Chief Election Officials reported that “the system of delivering ballots and returning them by mail is archaic compared to the pace of modern military operations” and “…reliance on fax machines to speed the voting process….is largely unworkable for deployed troops.” The delegation also reported that individual service members and overseas citizens confirmed that in overseas locales fax capabilities were not readily available and “indicated a strong preference for, and almost universal access to, email or internet based voting procedures.”

We realize that universal adoption of email and online applications to deliver voting materials will not happen immediately, as State governments must engage the legislative and policy decision making process to implement such changes (that is also why, for the first time, FVAP is sending this letter to both the State Chief Election Officer and the leaders of State legislative chambers, in recognition of the role of both branches of government play in resolving these problems). In the interim, FVAP will encourage and assist Uniformed Service and overseas voters to greatly increase the use of the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). Given the inherent delays in sending ballots by mail, the FWAB represents the only ballot readily available for many of these voters. Therefore, FVAP recommends that States expand its use to include simultaneous registration, ballot request, and voted absentee ballot for all elections at all levels: general, primary, special, and runoff elections for Federal, State, and local offices. In expanding the use of the FWAB in this manner, individually developed State Write-In Ballots will no standardize the “emergency ballot” process for these voters, reduce confusion as to which form to use, and allow election officials to focus their education on one form and its processes.

Additionally, FVAP strongly supports standardizing the voting process for Uniformed Services and overseas voters across all States…

This year, FVAP evaluated its legislative initiatives with regard to the impact they have on absentee voting by uniformed service members and overseas citizens, as both separate populations and collectively. FVAP sorted these initiatives according to the degree which each affected these populations. That analysis indicated that three initiatives provided the most benefit to the voters: 45 day ballot transit time prior to the election, the use of electronic transmission, and expanding the use of the Federal Write-In Absentee ballot to include, in addition to general elections, primary, run-off and special elections for federal, State and local offices. These three initiatives, therefore, received the highest weighting, totaling 8-%. Based upon this weighted measure, FVAP is providing a State-by-State score representing FVAP’s success in convincing States to adopt our legislative initiatives.

…North Carolina’s score is 71.5%.
…..
After reviewing North Carolina’s existing election code and procedures, we have identified four initiatives for your legislature to consider during the upcoming legislative session. These Initiatives are discussed in detail with suggested working in the enclosed Legislative Initiatives document. Information available to FVAP indicates that there are 32,718 Uniformed Service members, an estimated 78,832 family members of voting age, and approximately 116,200 overseas citizens who claim North Carolina as their voting residence….

2010 Legislative Initiatives

Expanded Use of Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot

…the FWAB should be accepted simultaneously as a voter registration application, absentee ballot request, and absentee ballot. This provision will allow highly mobile population to participate in elections far in advance of a deployment, reassignment or move. Finally, FVAP is recommending a new policy that the FWAB be the only write-in ballot used for Uniformed Services and overseas voters, the authorization and use of both a FWAB and a State Write-In Absentee Ballot introduces greater complexity and opportunity for error for Uniformed Services and overseas voters. Using the single FWAB will allow future technological solution by FVAP to incorporate State and local races into online FWAB solutions, further extending this franchise opportunity.

Participation with Uniform Law Commission Effort and Adoption of Recommendations

The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) is drafting the “Military Services and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voting Act” to be presented for future adoption by the States. FVAP

Uniformity and standardization of voting laws for the Uniformed Services and overseas voters would substantially ease the burden of compliance and improve voter success. Furthermore, FVAP recommends that the State Chief Election Official work closely with the State legislative body to enact the Act when it is presented to the
States for adoption. …

Removal of Notarization and Witnessing Requirements

Enfranchise Citizens Who Have Never Resided in the U.S.

Many U.S. citizens, who have never resided in a State or territory, are not entitled to vote under current State law. These citizens are voting age children of U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote under UOCAVA themselves…

complete letter here
(pdf)

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