Democracy from Afar: States Show Progress on Military and Overseas Voting

  • January 27, 2012

Significant changes in state laws since the passage of the federal 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act have greatly improved the ability of Americans abroad to vote and have their votes counted. These reforms finally begin to address the many challenges these voters have faced for decades.

Nearly 60 years ago, President Harry Truman urged Congress to ensure members of the military serving abroad could “enjoy the rights they are being asked to fight to preserve.” His words acknowledged a troubling problem: Millions of military personnel overseas could not be sure their votes counted in elections back home.

To assess the extent of this problem, the Pew Center on the States issued No Time to Vote: Challenges Facing America's Overseas Military Voters in January 2009, the first comprehensive analysis of the time military personnel serving overseas needed to request, receive, and return ballots. The report showed that, decades after President Truman's challenge, 25 states and the District of Columbia still did not provide enough time for them to cast ballots and have their votes counted. Pew identified the major contributing factors and recommended key changes.