In an effort to make certain that servicemen and women can vote, President Obama signed the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act in 2009. The MOVE Act requires election officials to send ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election, and this year’s midterm was the first election to which the new law applied. The 45 day period was based on findings that overseas voters did not have sufficient time to return their ballots and were thus disenfranchised.
Most states complied with the law, and some states applied for waivers–about half of which were granted. However, a few states did not comply, forcing the Department of Justice to compel them to take steps to ensure that overseas ballots would be counted. The Department of Justice estimates that 65,000 votes were preserved as a result.
Military and overseas voter participation rates are not yet available–and some ballots are still coming in–but the government’s willingness to take action to guarantee that overseas voters have an equal opportunity to cast their ballot is impressive, and a great tribute to the men and women in the armed forces.