The Pentagon’s inspector general said in a report issued Tuesday that the federal government’s efforts to assist military voters under the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act aren’t working thanks to underfunding and ineffective outreach to younger military personnel.
Under the MOVE Act, every military installation that isn’t in a war zone is required to establish a voting assistance office. But the Department of Defense inspector general tried contacting every one of those offices and wasn’t able to contact half. The Air Force was the worst offender. The inspector was only able to contact 29 out of 74 offices.“We concluded the Services had not established all the [installation voting assistance offices] as intended by the MOVE Act because, among other issues, the funding was not available,” the inspector concluded.
Officials with Federal Voting Assistance Program also said they are “investing in intuitive, easy-to-use web-based tools” instead of voting assistance offices which they believe could “substantially reduce cost and improve voting assistance.” Other military officials also told the inspector they believed reaching out to web-savvy, younger military personnel via websites and social media would be more cost-effective.
The inspector recommended that the Pentagon develop legislation that would remove the requirement that they maintain a voting assistance office on each installation and instead give military secretaries more discretion. The inspector the physical voting assistance offices “costly” and “ineffective.”
A report from the Military Voter Protection Project last month found that military requests for absentee ballots were low in several surveyed states.
“Election Day 2012 could result in an all-time historic low for military voter participation,” Eric Eversole, founder and executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project said in a written statement. “While military voters have long suffered from low participation rates, these numbers are extremely disappointing given the comprehensive reform passed by Congress in 2009. That law should have increased military voter participation, not decreased it.”