16 July 2010

Pew Commends Uniform Law Commission for Military and Overseas Voters Act

/PRNewswire/ -- The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) took a major step toward improving state election systems by approving the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act at its annual meeting July 15. The model law would resolve longstanding, widespread voting problems in all federal, state and local elections for American military personnel and citizens overseas. In 2011, many of the commissioners will work to enact the model law through legislation in their respective states.

The ULC, also known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, now in its 119th year, comprises more than 350 lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote the enactment of uniform laws designed to solve problems common to all the states.

Critical provisions of the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act include:

-- mandating that absentee ballots for all elections be sent at least 45
days before an election;
-- requiring electronic transmission of voting materials, including blank
absentee ballots for all elections, upon request;
-- eliminating the requirement for notarization of military and overseas
ballots; and
-- expanding acceptance of the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (used as
a back-up measure when official ballots aren't received) for all

"In 1952, President Truman urged reform of an election system that disenfranchised those who served in the military in World War II and in the post-war reconstruction," said Doug Chapin, director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States. "We commend the ULC for setting both a gold standard and developing a practical solution that states can adopt to finally answer Truman's call. This new model law will make it easier for those who defend and represent our nation's democratic ideals around the world to participate in our democracy here at home."

In January 2009, the Pew Center on the States issued No Time to Vote: Challenges Facing America's Overseas Military Voters, a report which documented that 25 states and the District of Columbia did not provide adequate time for overseas service members to vote and have their ballots counted. At that time, Pew began working with the ULC to inform the drafting of the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act.

In October 2009, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which removed many of the obstacles to voting and provided more time for military service members and overseas citizens to participate in federal elections. Since then, Pew has been working with states to bring their laws and regulations into compliance with the MOVE Act and expand the new provisions to state and local elections. The ULC's model act provides a clear blueprint for states to go beyond the federal MOVE law and extend key protections for military and overseas voters to any general, special, primary or runoff election for federal, state and local offices and ballot measures.

In addition to its efforts to improve the election system for military personnel and civilians abroad, the Pew Center on the States is partnering with state election officials and Google to develop the Voting Information Project, which will harness modern information technologies to get voters, no matter where they reside, the election information they need. Pew has also been examining the problems posed by the nation's outdated voter registration system and is collaborating with election officials to evaluate options for building a system that is more efficient and accurate, while reducing costs and administrative burdens.

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