Senate Adds Military Voter Amendment to Defense Policy Bill
Amendment Based on Cochran Cosponsored Measure,
Reforms to Military & Overseas Voting Law
The Senate has accepted an amendment cosponsored by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that was written to ensure that military personnel and American citizens living overseas can participate in U.S. elections.
The amendment, based on the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (S.1415), was added Thursday to the FY2010 Defense Authorization Bill (S.1390). The amendment mandates a series of actions to be taken by the Department of Defense and states to improve voter participation among servicemen and women.
"Support for this legislation is increasing because there is a growing recognition in the Senate that there are barriers keeping many military personnel from registering and taking part in elections," Cochran said. "I am pleased that the Senate has taken action to confront these problems by incorporating this amendment into this defense policy bill."
Like S.1415, the Senate-approved amendment to S.1390 would amend the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) by, among other things:
* Directing the Defense Department to implement procedures to increase voter participation among military personnel and their dependents;
* Requiring states to implement and maintain an electronic and fax system for sending voter registration and absentee ballot applications; and
* Requiring states to provide military voters with ballots no later than 45 days before an election, and establishes a 10-day post-election grace period for receiving ballots.
Cochran serves on the Senate Rules Committee that last week approved S.1415 and readied it for Senate consideration. During its consideration of the bill, the committee was told that total registration among U.S. military personnel in 2006 was 64.8 percent, compared to an 83.8 percent registration rate for the general voting age population.
After a two-week debate, the Senate late Thursday passed the FY2010 Defense Authorization Bill (87-7). It authorizes policies for national defense programs and activities. Cochran voted for the overall measure, which now goes to a conference committee to reconcile differences between House and Senate-passed versions of the legislation.
For Mississippi, S.1390 authorizes several military construction projects for which funding has already been approved, at Cochran's request, by the Senate Appropriations Committee in its FY2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill. That bill, which is ready for consideration by the full Senate, includes $50.2 million for construction projects at military installations in Mississippi.