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McCarthy Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen and Protect Voting Rights of Military and Overseas Voters

Nov 21, 2013
Press Release

 

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman McCarthy introduced the Safeguarding Elections for Our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements Act (H.R. 3576) which will improve voter registration and expand voting opportunities and training to ensure that all votes are protected:

“As our service members and their families serve and sacrifice for our great nation, they should not face hurdles when attempting to exercise their right to vote,” said McCarthy.  “This legislation will seek to ensure that the Department of Defense implements important reforms that will expand access and assistance for voting for those who defend our nation overseas.

Congresswoman Susan Davis offered this statement:

“The men and women in uniform make sacrifices every day to preserve our democracy and the cherished right to vote that goes with it,” said Davis, Ranking Member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee and a leader on election reform. “Many of our service members face challenges when it comes to voting because they move frequently and often have to vote from remote locations.  This bill will help their ballots get in on time.  I am pleased that we are working across the aisle and across the Capitol to keep improving the voting process for military and overseas voters.”

NOTE: Joining Congressman McCarthy as an original co-sponsor is Congressman Susan Davis (D-San Diego). While there has been action to remove the obstacles that military personnel and overseas civilian voters face, many continue to experience problems in part due to outdated voter registration or ballot delivery issues. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have introduced a bipartisan companion bill in the Senate.

Background on the SENTRI ACT

Improves voter registration and voting opportunities for service members through use of online system and by requiring voter assistance as a routine part of service members’ annual training. Under the MOVE Act, DoD designated offices in military installations where soldiers and their families could seek voter assistance. The SENTRI Act improves voter assistance opportunities by requiring DoD to implement a complementary online system through which service members can register to vote, update their voter registration information, request an absentee ballot, pre-populate the official postcard form used to request absentee ballots, and get automatic notification regarding the need to update their voter registration or absentee mailing address after a change of address. The bill also requires DoD to offer voter assistance as a routine part of each service member’s annual training.

 

Ensures requests for absentee ballots are valid for one full Federal election cycle. Military and overseas voters may use the official postcard form prescribed under UOCAVA to request an absentee ballot. The SENTRI Act clarifies that the official postcard form may be used to request an absentee ballot for each election for Federal office held in a State through the next regularly scheduled general election for Federal office. Due to concerns about the expense of continuing to send ballots that never reach intended voters, the bill provides exceptions to the one full election cycle rule, including where a ballot is returned as undeliverable by mail or, in the case of a ballot delivered electronically, if the email is rejected.

 

Strengthens protection of voting rights of military and overseas voters. Voter registration and absentee ballot procedures established under the MOVE Act should result in timely transmittal of blank ballots to military and overseas voters. This has not always been the case in recent Federal elections. The SENTRI Act would require states to submit a pre-election report to DoJ and DoD on the status of blank absentee ballot transmissions to military and overseas voters not later than 43 days before a Federal election. Information from the states on the number of ballot requests received and ballots transmitted would enable DoJ to determine whether enforcement actions are needed to obtain timely remedies for military and overseas voters. In addition, states that fail to timely transmit requested absentee ballots would be required to transmit such ballots by express delivery.

 

Requires reporting on implementation and effectiveness of new voter assistance obligations. To measure the effectiveness of DoD’s voter assistance programs, as well as progress implementing the new online system for voter assistance, the SENTRI Act requires a biennial report to coincide with the Federal general election cycle. The report will be subject to independent GAO review assessing the effectiveness of DoD’s voting assistance programs.