Wednesday, June 24, 2009
MVP Act Clears a Hurdle [Fred Schwarz]
The House Administration Committee has approved the Military Voting Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 2393) and sent it to the full House for a vote. As its name suggests, the act would make it easier for service members who are stationed overseas to vote by absentee ballot. The most important provisions would require the Defense Department to take a more active role in collecting completed ballots, and to ship them back to America by express mail instead of the pokey military mail services. That should reduce the problem of ballots getting lost or arriving too late to be counted.
It all sounds fairly uncontroversial, and the bill is likely to pass with little or no opposition. Indeed, when a nearly identical bill was introduced in Congress last year, it passed the Senate on a voice vote — but the House rejected it, for two reasons. First, it was a presidential election year, and the Democratic majority thought military voters would favor McCain. (This may explain why all the Senate sponsors, and all but one of the House sponsors, were Republicans.) And second, the 2008 bill permitted completed ballots to be sent back to the States by private express-delivery service.
That got the National Association of Postmasters of the United States riled up. Think of what FedEx or UPS could have said: “When the U.S. government needs to safeguard the most sacred right of democracy, who does it call? Not the post office.” The bill died in the House committee. So this year the bill’s proponents took care to recruit sponsors from both parties and to specify USPS Express Mail as the only permissible carrier. Barring any further mischief, the bill should be enacted into law, and our forces overseas will no longer face obstacles in exercising the very rights they are fighting for.
(By the way, the 2008 version also
Expresse[d] the sense of Congress that the Department of Defense (DOD) should:
(1) utilize existing and emerging technologies to enhance the ability of members of the Armed Forces to meaningfully participate in elections and have their votes counted; and
(2) continue to closely examine the option of electronic voting, with the objective of protecting voter privacy and guarding against voter fraud.
That certainly makes sense for an electorate that is spread out all around the world, on land and sea, and in the long run it will probably solve the age-old problem of military voting. For the time being, though, including that language in the law would open a can of worms, because if electronic voting works for the military, why not use it for civilians too? So you would have software firms and computer makers vying for influence with DoD, hoping to get the jump on the much larger civilian election market. This is an issue that really needs to be treated separately, which is why the provisions about investigating computer voting were stricken from this year’s version.)
06/24 04:59 PMShare