New DOJ “Servicemembers Legislative Package” Proposes Changes to UOCAVA


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Yesterday, the Department of Justice released a legislative package aimed at helping members of the military, veterans and their families. Here’s an excerpt of the press release:

When the Justice Department launched the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative last March, we set in motion a dynamic engine to drive enforcement, outreach and training efforts on behalf of servicemembers, veterans and their families.  It is our responsibility to protect these individuals from financial scams, to preserve their right to return to their civilian employment after active duty and to strengthen their ability to cast a ballot when they are overseas.  When our servicemembers and veterans have peace of mind that their rights are protected at home, our nation is stronger.

As part of that package, DOJ is proposing several amendments to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), as amended by the MOVE Act, including:

  • Requiring pre-election reports (55 and 43 days before a federal election) by state and local officials on delivery of ballots to military and overseas voters;
  • Moving the ballot transmission deadline from 45 days pre-election (which always falls on Saturday) to 46 days;
  • Requiring any ballots sent after the 46-day deadline to go by express delivery – and allowing voters to return by express delivery if ballots are not sent by 41 days pre-election;
  • Eliminating the hardship waiver for states;
  • Clarifying that Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWAB) can be used in all federal elections, not just general elections;
  • Extending the validity of a ballot request by Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to include special elections up to year after the general election (and amending the FPCA as well);
  • Requiring that voters who register via FPCA cannot be treated as “temporary” voters and can only be removed from the rolls pursuant to other federal laws; and
  • Changing the UOCAVA reporting requirement from March 31 annually to September 30 in odd-numbered years in order to improve the quality of reporting.

The full package, including proposed legislative language, can be found here.

These proposed changes (which were made in consultation with Members of Congress) would make small but important shifts in UOCAVA – especially the switch to E-46 and making FPCA registrations permanent. The UOCAVA reporting change should also give the Federal Voting Assistance Program more time to give more detailed insight into the operation of the law at the state and local level. As always, it remains to be seen if Congress will (or even can) muster the the ability make these changes – though there are few things that unify Congress more than the issue of military and overseas voting.

Stay tuned!

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