Pew: New Reforms in 47 States and D.C. Improve Military And Overseas Voting

Pew: New Reforms in 47 States and D.C. Improve Military And Overseas Voting

In the past two years, 47 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to protect the voting rights of military and overseas citizens, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on the States. The 2012 election will be the first time these changes affect the process of voting for a president.

Democracy From Afar: States Show Progress on Military and Overseas Voting demonstrates the advancements states have made since the 2009 passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which resulted in some of the most significant protections for this population in more than 20 years. That legislation improved the process for participating in federal elections and included recommendations from Pew's 2009 report, No Time to Vote, which documented the obstacles military voters faced in obtaining and submitting a ballot in time to be counted.

Democracy From Afar finds that many states have implemented changes to their laws or administrative codes to allow for:

Enough time to vote.

  • Thirty-eight states and the District have laws or rules meeting or exceeding federal requirements to send ballots to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.
  • Eight additional states changed their primary dates to accommodate the requirement.

Electronic transmission of unvoted ballots.

  • All states and the District allow military and overseas voters to receive blank ballots electronically.

Eliminating requirements for notarization or witnesses.

  • Forty-six states and the District do not call for either for military and overseas voters.

Expanded use of Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWABs).

  • Thirty-four states and the District mandate FWABs be used as a backup ballot for all elections, including state and local.

“For far too long, those serving and protecting our democracy were unable to fully participate in elections back at home,” said David Becker, director of Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. “Now, the vast majority of states have greatly improved the ability of millions of military personnel and civilians overseas to cast a ballot and ensure it counts.”

Since 2007, Pew has partnered with organizations including the Uniform Law Commission, Overseas Vote Foundation, and the Department of Defense's Federal Voting Assistance Program to call attention to the challenges encountered by military and overseas voters. In 2011 the Uniform Law Commission and other partners led efforts across the nation to pass comprehensive model legislation in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah.

“States have made significant progress in improving the process for military and overseas voters,” Becker said. “Still, more work remains. As our partners continue efforts to ensure these voters can participate in the electoral process, Pew will continue working toward strengthening voter registration systems and access to voting information for all Americans—including those serving abroad.”

Pew's Elections Initiatives supports innovative research and partnerships to achieve the highest standards of accuracy, cost-effectiveness, convenience, and security in America's system of election administration. For more information, visit

The Pew Center on the States, a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life.