LEXINGTON, Ky.--The Council of State Governments Overseas Voting Initiative’s Policy Working Group, a group of state and local election officials from across the United States as well as election administration experts, released today policy recommendations for improving the voting experience for U.S. military voters and citizens living abroad.
The CSG OVI Policy Working Group—led by co-chairs Kim Wyman, Washington secretary of state, and David Stafford, supervisor of elections for Escambia County, Florida—identified three primary areas where state and local governments can improve the overseas and military voting process: voter registration, voter communication and engagement with the U.S. military community.
The report titled, “Overseas Voting: Strategies for Engaging Every Voter,” is available for download at http://www.csg.org/ovi/SpecialReport2016.aspx.
"Serving our military and overseas voters and making their voting experience as smooth as possible has always been of utmost importance to our team in Escambia County, Florida,” Stafford said. “It has been an honor to work with my distinguished colleagues across the country on the unique challenges faced by UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) voters and the election officials who serve them, and to identify achievable ways to enhance those services and improve access to the ballot for all voters."
In late 2013, CSG entered into a four-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, or FVAP, to improve the voting process for service members, the families of service members and citizens living abroad. The creation of the OVI Policy Working Group was one component of that partnership. In-person meetings included presentations from academics, election data analysts, U.S. Election Assistance Commissioners, FVAP officials, and state and local election officials; the working group also held several teleconference meetings.
“I would like to thank everyone who participated as part of our Policy Working Group and who contributed to this report. The names are too numerous to list and this project was truly a team effort,” CSG OVI Director Kamanzi Kalisa said. “Please share this report with your legislators and other stakeholders who are focused on military and civilian overseas voters and ask them to review and support its commonsense recommendations, most of which do not require legislation.”
Recommendations in the 13-page report include using plain language, creating more user-friendly electronic ballot return envelopes, implementing a standard validity period for the Federal Post Card Application and treating it as a permanent request for voter registration, and establishing a partnership between state and local election officials and local military installations. The report includes a short history and background of military and overseas voting in the United States as well as implementation strategies, statistics and analyses to support recommendations.
“This report highlights the group's recommendations for improvement in the UOCAVA voting process and provides real-world examples that will serve as a template for state and local election officials throughout the country to follow,” FVAP Director Matt Boehmer said.
Wyman said she was honored to chair the bipartisan working group of state and local elections experts. She called the recommendations helpful, straightforward and easy to implement.
“The issue has particular resonance for me as one who voted from Germany when my Army Ranger husband was stationed there,” Wyman said. “We need the best possible outreach and voter services, and these recommendations certainly will help achieve that. I urge that these recommendations be adopted everywhere."