FVAP Releases a Look at “The State of The Military Voter” After 10 Years of the MOVE Act

[Image via FVAP]

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recently released its 2018 Report to Congress, and as part of that release has produced a short piece entitled “The State of the Military Voter” using data from the report to demonstrate the gains that have been made for servicemembers and their families in years since the passage of the MOVE Act of 2009. Take a look:

In 2018, 53 percent of the ballots sent to military and overseas voters were successfully counted — compared to only a third in 2006, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) State of the Military Voter data, examining post-election research from the 2018 General Election.

Military members stationed away from their voting residence face unique challenges compared to local voters. The ability to receive and submit an absentee ballot on time remains a central challenge.

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 requires states to allow active duty military members, their eligible family, and overseas citizens to vote absentee in federal elections. The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) amended UOCAVA and other statutes in 2009 by providing greater protections, such as requiring states send absentee ballots to UOCAVA voters at least 45 days before federal elections and provide an electronic option for sending ballots to voters.

“FVAP data from elections in the years 2000 to 2005 show that 30 percent of military members didn’t vote because their absentee ballot didn’t arrive or arrived late,” FVAP Director David Beirne said. “A decade after the MOVE Act, that figure has been reduced by nearly half.”

Use of electronic options for sending and receiving election materials between voters and election offices has rapidly increased in recent elections. In 2018, election offices reported transmitting over half (57 percent) of military and overseas ballots by email. In contrast, in 2014, only 36 percent of these ballots were transmitted via email.

The FVAP State of the Military Voter data will be released after each federal election year. Findings are based on post-election surveys and studies of voter file data.

The 2018 data from the Report to Congress paints a fuller picture of the challenges and opportunities that remain:

  • In 2018, 61 percent of military members were registered to vote, which is 12 percentage points lower than the civilian population with similar demographics.
  • The voter participation rate for military members in 2018 was 26 percent, compared to a participation rate of 52 percent among civilians with similar demographics.
  • Election offices sent 655,409 absentee ballots to military and overseas voters in 2018 and received 344,392 back, for a return rate of 53 percent. The rejection rate was 6 percent.
  • Active duty military members who received assistance from a DoD resource (FVAP, Unit Voting Assistance Officers, Installation Voter Assistance Offices) were significantly more likely to submit a ballot than if they did not receive DoD assistance, a consistent finding across the last four General Elections.
  • More than four out of five (82%) military voters who reported casting an absentee ballot were aware of FVAP.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, awareness of FVAP among all military members rose from 38 percent to 47 percent.
  • FVAP.gov’s web metrics indicate that its popularity increased significantly compared to the 2014 midterm election — with a 136 percent increase in site sessions in 2018.
  • FVAP trained nearly 3,000 Voting Assistance Officers in 2018 and developed the Effective Voting Assistance Model (EVAM) to share proven methodologies and identify the ideal characteristics of military voting assistance programs.
  • In 2018, the vast majority of state election officials who used FVAP products and services were happy with them (80% to 100% reported satisfaction with individual products and services).
  • Some states do not ensure special protections for military and overseas voters unless they register and request a ballot using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).

[NOTE: My team at the Fors Marsh Group, working with our partners at Marketing for Change, helped collect and analyze the Post-Election Voting Survey data from active duty military, voting assistance officers and state election officials as part of our work with FVAP.]

This data illuminates the incredible impact that the MOVE Act has had since its enactment ten years ago, as well as FVAP’s key role in efforts to assist military and overseas voters in registering and casting a ballot. Kudos to FVAP on the release of both of these products – and for its ongoing commitment to ensuring the right and opportunity to vote for Americans around the world. Stay tuned …

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