U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), joined U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and John Barrasso (R-WY) in sending a letter to Secretary Leon Panetta expressing disappointment for the Department of Defense (DOD) failing to comply to the Military Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.
"The MOVE Act was not optional, and neither is our moral duty to protect the civil rights of our men and women in uniform and their families," the Senators wrote in the letter. "They make tremendous sacrifices in the defense of our nation, but those sacrifices do not and should not include their right to vote."
Enacted in 2009, the MOVE Act mandated on-base voter assistance offices on every military installation to help ensure service members are able to vote. As highlighted in the letter, the DOD Inspector General (IG) found DOD had not established all the assistance offices that Congress intended. In its August 31, 2012 report, the DoD IG state: "Results were clear. Our attempts to contact [Installation Voting Assistance Offices] IVAO failed about 50 percent of the time."
About Oklahoma military voting, Inhofe said,"When only 2.2 percent of Oklahoma's registered military participating in the 2010 election, we have to ask what is preventing our service members from exercising their voting rights. DOD should give immediate attention to this issue. Our military should be guaranteed an accessible opportunity to vote. In order to accomplish this, DOD needs to ensure it reaches out to every service member to assist them inunderstanding their options for casting a ballot and encourage their participation."
The United States has military personnel deployed in about 150 countries, totaling roughly 200,000 personnel with close to half of those in Afghanistan. Military voters move on average three times more often than their civilian counterparts. This increases the importance of reaching out to our service member, including those deployed, to ensure they receive the necessary voter assistance during these key transition periods. Military Voter Protection Project estimates that the number of troops voting in November could be down by 25-35 percent. Currently only 55,000 absentee ballots have been requested compared to the 166,000 in the 2008 election.
Military voters can use the Federal Post Card Applications at www.fvap.gov to register to vote, updated registration information, or request an absentee ballot.