Duckworth Joins Cornyn, Tillis, King to Introduce Bill to Provide Additional Voting Protections for Military Overseas
Bill Would Simplify Absentee Voter Registration for Servicemembers and Increase Voting Opportunities
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Angus King (I-ME) in introducing the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Act, which ensures that servicemembers are provided with ballots and registration cards necessary to vote while deployed overseas along with instruction from trained personnel on how to cast their vote in their registered state.
“Every day, our servicemembers put themselves at risk to defend this nation and our democracy,” Sen. Duckworth said. “We owe it to them to make sure they have every opportunity to actually participate in the hallmark of that democracy: our elections. I’m proud to join Senators Cornyn and King in introducing the Military Voter Protection Act to help ensure our heroes can make their voices heard even when they’re deployed thousands of miles away from home.”
“Voting is one of America’s fundamental democratic rights and one that servicemembers abroad fight every day to defend,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would make it easier for those who are prepared to give their lives for our freedom to be heard at the ballot box, regardless of their deployment status.”
“Our men and women in uniform courageously put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedoms as Americans, including the right to vote,” said Sen. Tillis. “Servicemembers should not face significant hurdles when casting their ballot while deployed overseas, and this bipartisan legislation represents an important step forward in protecting and facilitating that right.”
“In the midst of our nation’s darkest days, Abraham Lincoln asserted that the Union’s fallen soldiers had not died in vain – they had made the ultimate sacrifice in order to ensure that ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,’” said Sen. King. “Though the challenges our servicemembers face have changed in the years since the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln’s closing words are as relevant as ever: the American experiment still lives, thanks to the sacrifices and commitment of those who have answered the call to serve. It’s only right that we make sure that those who defend our way of life are given every opportunity to exercise their right to vote and have their votes count.”
Registration and participation for active duty servicemembers voting by absentee ballot dropped between the 2012 and 2016 elections, with a third of those surveyed saying the absentee voting process was too complicated. The Military Voting Protection Act takes definitive steps to ensure all overseas military voters have the opportunity to cast their vote if they choose to do so. It also includes a Sense of Congress encouraging states that do not allow servicemembers to use the Federal write-in absentee ballot as a simultaneous application and acceptable ballot for Federal elections to modify their laws to permit such use.
Currently, military voting assistance officers distribute voter registration and absentee ballot requests or Federal Post Card Applications (FPCA), which allow them to register and request an absentee ballot, to military service members. Depending on the state, the federal write-in absentee ballot can serve as registration to vote as well as the actual ballot itself. Currently, 22 states and three territories require both the FPCA as well as an actual ballot. However, 28 states allow the federal write-in absentee ballot to serve as both the registration/request form and the ballot itself.
Under the MVP Act, a deployed servicemember will receive the following within 45 days prior to a general election for Federal office:
- A briefing on and an opportunity to fill out the FPCA for absentee voter registration application and ballot application prescribed under the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (as applicable); and
- A federal write-in absentee ballot prescribed pursuant to section 103 of that Act with instructions on the appropriate use of the ballot with respect to the state in which they are registered to vote.
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