The Military Personnel Subcommittee met today for a hearing on Federal Voting Assistance Program. Chairman Joe Wilson (R-SC) made the following statement available as prepared for delivery:
"Today the Subcommittee meets to hear testimony from the Department of Defense to help us understand how members of the Armed Forces and their families along with U.S. civilians living and working outside of the United States are afforded the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. I want to welcome our witnesses and I look forward to their testimony.
"Voting is a fundamental and essential part of the democratic process. It is both our right and our duty as citizens of a democracy to set the direction of the Nation by selecting the individuals who will represent us at each level of government. This responsibility remains with us regardless of where we choose to live and work or, as in the case of our service members, where they are sent to defend our freedom.
"For many years Congress has been concerned about military and overseas voters who have told us about the difficulties they face when they try to cast their ballots. Registering to vote, receiving a ballot by mail and returning the ballot by mail in time for the vote to count in an election when the voter is not physically located in the U.S. is challenging at best. One can only imagine the difficulty trying to accomplish that same process when the voter is at a remote outpost in Afghanistan fighting a war.
"Yet, these are the very individuals who, through their military service, protect our right to vote.
Congress has worked hard over the last several years to ensure that the men and women assigned overseas on behalf of our country do not lose their ability to vote as a result of their service. A number of federal laws have been enacted to enable the military and U.S. citizens abroad to vote in federal elections.
"Most recently, Congress enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. The MOVE Act required the Department of Defense to make several changes to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) to improve the process by which military absentee voters cast their ballots. However the most recent report by the DODIG on DOD's implementation of the requirements of the MOVE Act finds that the military services are falling short in establishing Installation Voting Assistance offices. I look forward to hear from our DOD witness how the Department will fully implement the legislated improvements that were intended to assist military and overseas voters. I am also interested to know how the changes to FVAP have affected the military and overseas voter in the lead up to the 2012 general election.
"I will close by saying that every day, our troops lay their lives on the line to defend freedom and it is our job to make sure that they are not denied the right to vote.
"We are joined today by an outstanding panel. We would like to give each witness the opportunity to present his or her testimony and each member an opportunity to question the witnesses.
"Let me welcome our panel:
Ambassador Kenneth Moorefield
Deputy Inspector General for Plans and Operations
Department of Defense
Ms. Pamela S. Mitchell
Acting Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program
Defense Human Resources Activity"