Election Process Made Easier for Military and Overseas Voters with the Launch of New Ballot Tool

Contact: Janet Lane, 202.552.2037 or Jessica Riordan, 215.575.4886


Washington, DC - 09/15/2008 - An estimated six million Americans who are members of the military or live overseas have a new way to ensure their vote for president counts this November, according to experts speaking at a high-level summit on military and overseas voters. Attended by members of Congress, secretaries of state and other election officials, “Democracy at a Distance: A Summit to Make Voting Work for Military and Overseas Voters” was convened by the Pew Center on the States, in collaboration with the JEHT Foundation.

At the summit, Pew and the Overseas Vote Foundation launched a new online tool that allows voters to complete the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) more easily and with fewer errors.  This tool can be used by Americans covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act who have requested an absentee ballot from election officials but have not yet received it. 

The need to help military and overseas voters is supported by a new bipartisan Tarrance/Lake poll commissioned by the Pew Center on the States and released at the summit.  It found 96% of Americans believe it’s important that these voters get the chance to participate and vote in U.S. elections.  The poll results also show that 81% of Americans favor creating a uniform national set of rules for military and overseas voters.

The new FWAB tool, available at www.overseasvotefoundation.org, provides an immediate solution for registered voters whose ballots are late or lost in transit.  The site offers easy access to the “Vote-Print-Mail” system. 

“Military and overseas voters do not share an equal opportunity to vote,” said Michael Caudell-Feagan, director of Make Voting Work, a project of the Pew Center on the States. “According to research from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, only one-third of the nearly one million ballots mailed to these voters were cast or counted in the 2006 general election. FWAB is a powerful tool for these voters.”

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that administrative hurdles should impede the counting of overseas military and civilian votes,” said Nicole Gordon, vice president of the JEHT Foundation, which has supported the Overseas Vote Foundation in efforts to partner with states to facilitate the registration process for overseas voters. “The launch of the FWAB tool is a significant step in easing and modernizing this outdated process.”

The FWAB tool works by matching users’ 9-digit zip code for their U.S. residence to their voting district.  The system automatically presents candidate lists for federal races in one’s district. Voters select their candidates for office and then download, print, sign and send the FWAB into the local election office.

“Through our help desk, I’ve heard thousands of stories from voters who have been frustrated during presidential campaigns as they anxiously waited for their absentee ballots to arrive,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO of Overseas Vote Foundation. “The new FWAB tool replaces that worry with an immediate, user-friendly, online and secure process that overseas and military voters from all 50 states and the District of Columbia can use.”

For more information about the challenges facing overseas voters, visit pewcenteronthestates.org and download “Military and Overseas Citizen Voting Project,” an overview developed by the Pew Center on the States.

Make Voting Work, a project of the Pew Center on the States, seeks to foster an election system that achieves the highest standards of accuracy, accessibility, efficiency and security.  The initiative examines the most pressing election problems, and undertakes and evaluates pilot projects and experiments designed to address them. This research will inform our efforts to identify effective solutions through changes in policies, practices and technology.

The Pew Charitable Trusts applies the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems.  Our Pew Center on the States identifies and advances effective policy approaches to critical issues facing states.  Online at pewcenteronthestates.org.

The JEHT Foundation was established in April 2000. Its name stands for the core values that underlie the Foundation's mission: Justice, Equality, Human dignity and Tolerance. The Foundation focuses on criminal and juvenile justice, international justice, and fair and participatory elections. Working directly with states, in some cases in-depth, is a key part of the Foundation strategy to implement practical change related to its mission.

JEHT’s Fair and Participatory Elections program promotes the integrity and fairness of democratic elections in the United States. The Foundation works with state and other government officials and entities, researchers, and non-partisan reformers to insure technical integrity of elections by professionalizing the administration of elections, insulating them from partisan political control, and supporting independent structures to oversee elections and related functions.

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