August 02, 2010

Overseas Vote Foundation President Responds to FOX News Report on MOVE Act

In response to this post linking to a FOX News story on the MOVE Act, Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO of the Overseas Vote Foundation, sends along the following guest post:

    Many avid followers of the ElectionLawBlog are aware of the Overseas Vote Foundation's (OVF) unrelenting efforts since 2004 toward enhancing American overseas and military citizens' abilities to participate as voters in our nation's democratic process.

    It has been an amazing and rewarding journey partly because of the positive aspect of working with these voters, but also in our work directly with states and election officials. The development of the Alliance for Military and Overseas Voting Rights (AMOVR) and its involvement and support of the passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) in late 2009 was a major milestone in overseas and military voting. The progress we are now seeing with the implementation of the MOVE Act, and the camaraderie we have experienced in working on these issues (which span party lines and unite military and citizens' groups), has been tremendous.

    That is why I was so deeply disappointed to see the FOX News story (EXCLUSIVE: DOJ Accused of Stalling on MOVE Act for Voters in Military, by Jana Winter, Published July 28, 2010, ) gain traction this past week. I am stumped about how such accusations could be seen as valid for linking on esteemed election reporting sites such as the Election Law Blog. I am deeply troubled by an implied smear of state and federal election officials working on implementing MOVE.

    This article leads one to believe that many states are asking for waivers -- which is not true. OVF is polling the states right now on this question, and we have been impressed by the broad compliance. Relatively few states have even requested waivers (to our knowledge, only 6).

    In our view at OVF, the states' implementation of MOVE is a huge success story. Many states rapidly passed new legislation to support it. Others have moved forward with implementation regardless of delays in enacting needed legislative reforms.

    In recognition of states' mammoth tasks to quickly implement this important new federal legislation, I ask commentators: please don't undermine the MOVE Act and insult the states on whom we count to implement it for the benefit of overseas civilian and military voters until you check the facts and get more than one point of view.

    When I spoke with the FOX writer, Jana Winter, she had not spoken to any of the Secretaries of State-- which I encouraged her to do. I also pointed out that DOJ can be viewed as treating waivers very cautiously, not wanting to encourage state officials to apply without strong reasons. For instance, those states that hold fall primaries only a few weeks from the general election face insurmountable barriers to implementing parts of MOVE this year. The ballots cannot be designed and sent out within the statutorily required time periods because the primary winners are not known in time. These states will have to redesign their federal primary election calendars to satisfy MOVE in coming years. Some, like Vermont and Minnesota, for example, have already moved their primaries.

    Far from being routinely and easily applied for or granted by DOJ, a waiver application requires a great deal of work from both the state and the DoJ. Further, waivers are only short-term transitional options for this fall, not long-term exceptions from compliance. Nevertheless, allowing states to request waivers in 2010 -- with substantiated justification as to why a waiver, a temporary grace period for implementation, is needed--was built into the framework of MOVE.

    I hope that other commentators and reporters will more deeply examine and report the actual facts of MOVE and the waivers that have been issued. All Americans deserve to know that their government officials at all levels and across party lines are seeking to achieve far broader military and civilian overseas voting than has ever occurred previously.

Posted by Rick Hasen at August 2, 2010 08:57 AM