The Obama administration isn't doing enough to protect voting rights of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving America overseas. That's the news that emerged from a hearing by the House Administration Committee last week investigating complaints that a military voting statute enacted in 2009 is, in some cases, being ignored.
"We're not satisfied at all that the Department of Justice has done everything it can to ensure full compliance with the law," Elections Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper, Mississippi Republican, told The Washington Times. "They have clearly failed to make sure that all military ballots were mailed in the appropriate time frame."
Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez boasted that his Civil Rights Division handled delays in the mailing of ballots to the troops by filing suit Oct. 22 against at least 35 delinquent counties in Illinois. A consent decree forced these jurisdictions to continue counting late-arriving military ballots for several weeks after Election Day. Yet Mr. Perez and his department waited 34 days after the legal deadline before taking action.
The law requires ballots to be mailed at least 45 days before Election Day. Eric Eversole of the Military Voter Protection Project said, "More than 45,000 military and overseas ballots were mailed less than 25 days before the November 2010 election." It's not known how many of those votes were returned on time for counting. A preliminary survey by the Overseas Vote Foundation found 18 percent of affected citizens didn't even receive the ballots they requested.
Mr. Eversole recommends tweaking the law to give military voters a private right of court action so they won't be dependent on Justice officials to defend their voting rights. Another idea is to abolish the provision allowing the Department of Defense, in consultation with Justice, to issue waivers to states that claim an inability to comply. Confusion about those waivers is in large part responsible for many of the problems in the last election. "There were some unacceptable failures," said Mr. Harper, promising another hearing on the issue. At least one end of Pennsylvania Ave. cares about the military vote.
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