Military personnel and their families face a variety of challenges to voting in U.S. elections, despite repeated congressional and state efforts to help. These challenges include difficulty in registering to vote while deployed or on active duty, frequent address changes, slow mail delivery or ballots and ballot applications that never arrive, difficulty in obtaining information about candidates or issues, or the inability to comply with notarization or verification procedures.
The good news is that there is now a new act designed to provide a practical solution to the problems that military voters have faced for many years. The Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (UMOVA) addresses long-standing, widespread voting problems for American military personnel and their dependents.
UMOVA has been introduced in Oklahoma as Senate Bill 115 by Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Elk City, and House Bill 1832 by Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow.
The federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009 were passed by Congress to address the problems faced by military personnel, but haven't been wholly effective in overcoming difficulties that some voters in the military face. The federal laws do not encompass state and local elections. Further, American elections are conducted at the state and local levels under procedures that vary dramatically by jurisdiction. This lack of uniformity, and lack of application of the federal statutes to state and local elections, complicates efforts to ensure full enfranchisement for military voters.
UMOVA was drafted to address these issues. Highlights of UMOVA include:
The new Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act uses and builds upon the key requirements of the two federal acts and extends their important protections and benefits to voting in state and local elections. This new proposed Oklahoma act would make it easier for those who defend and represent our nation's ideals around the world to participate fully and freely in elections at home. We urge both chambers of the Legislature to enact this important legislation for military voters as soon as possible.
Further information on the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act can be found at www.uniformlaws.org.