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Changes to Primaries Will Make Military Absentee Voting Easier

by Wendy Innes, published

America's service men and women have in the past faced some obstacles when it comes to exercising their constitutional right to vote. However, several states have taken steps to remove some of these obstacles and comply with the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE).

The MOVE act, passed in October 2009, requires states to implement several key changes in order to make voting easier for those who are away from home at election time. According to the Military Voter Protection Project (MVPP), those changes include requiring states to mail absentee ballots to military voters at least 45 days before a federal election, provide electronic delivery options for election materials, and eliminate the notary requirement for absentee ballots.

In the 2010 elections, just 4.6 percent of the more than 2 million eligible military voters cast a ballot that actually counted. And, even though MOVE became law in 2009, MVPP found that many states were not in compliance with the law, all but ensuring that military votes wouldn’t be counted. But, some state legislatures are now trying to change this.



New York has legislation pending that would move the state's primary from September to June. In the 2010 and 2012 elections, New York was in violation of the MOVE act. The state was not able to send out federal election ballots 45 days in advance because there wasn't enough time between their primary and the general elections.

According to New York State Assemblywoman Addie Russell, in addition to bringing the state into compliance with MOVE, bill A.8198 is also expected to save the state more than $50 million as it will eliminate multiple primaries.

"While it’s unacceptable for voting to be made more difficult than it needs to be, it’s unconscionable to hamper our troop’s ability to participate in the very democracy they defend," she said.

Russell said that the savings is a secondary benefit and that the funds can be used to improve the state's infrastructure and ensuring the public's safety.


Georgia is on its way to holding the earliest primaries it's ever had. This week, a bill passed Georgia's Senate that would move the date of the state's primary election from mid-July to May 20. The bill would also move the date of any runoff elections from August to July 22.

The new measure, which was approved with a 38 to 15 vote, is the result of an order from a federal judge that required the state to move its primary in order to comply with MOVE.

The chair of the Republican Caucus, Butch Miller of Gainesville, said:

"This is in direct response to the federal ruling, and it’s keeping Georgia in line with the federal government, and we are following the rules explicitly and to the letter."

But, Democrats in the state aren't happy. They say that the bill gives incumbents an unfair advantage.

Democratic State Senator Curt Thompson said that other states have addressed the issue of compliance by allowing military and overseas voters to cast their ballots electronically, either by email or fax. He said other solutions include an automatic second ballot or moving the date of the primary to the fall.

The bill will head to the state's House for a final vote.


Connecticut is looking to join the ranks of 28 other states that allow military members to cast their ballots

electronically. The state's secretary of state, Denise Merrill, is urging lawmakers to create a system that allows military members to download and print their ballots. However, she believes that ballots should still be returned by mail, despite complaints in the past from military members that their mailed ballots were not counted.

There was some good news for Connecticut, however. Merrill said that military absentee voting rates improved dramatically between 2010 and 2012.

In a report to the legislature, Merrill said that 94 percent of the requested absentee ballots were returned in time to be counted in 2012. This is a 30 percent improvement over the 2010 election. Though 2010 was not a presidential election year, the increase is still significant.


The state of Alabama's House Constitution, Campaign, and Elections Committee met this past week to consider a bill that would ensure that military members received their ballots when they are deployed or stationed overseas. Details of this bill have not been released.

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