by Chip Levengood, Chairman, Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF)

Hot off the press from Chicago - OVF is pleased to report another very significant victory to facilitate absentee voting by overseas citizens and uniformed military members and their families. On July 15, 2010, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) voted unanimously to approve the final draft of the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (UMOVA). The ULC promotes the adoption of identical legislation, i.e. uniform laws, to promote national unity. UMOVA, after enactment by the various states and territories, will extend the major advances and protections of the federal MOVE (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment) Act to all state and local elections.

The MOVE Act, signed by President Obama in October 2009, establishes full federal guarantees to all overseas and military voters:

  1. Military and civilian voters have the right to electronically receive  voting documents (official election communications, registration forms, and un-voted ballot materials.
  2. All states must send blank absentee ballots to military and civilian voters at least 45 days prior to Election Day.
  3. States may no longer impose non-essential requirements such as notarization or witnesses nor can states disqualify voters for, e.g., inconsequential spelling errors or non-proscribed paper sizes.

Each of these protections is guaranteed for state and local elections by UMOVA.

Please note carefully, however, that neither MOVE nor UMOVA give civilian and military voters the right to cast their marked ballots over the Internet. They do enable transmission and receipt of blank un-voted ballots by Internet with  printed, auditable paper ballot return.

UMOVA, when enacted, will eliminate a current inequity about which the MOVE Act was silent, namely, non-domiciled citizens. Non-domiciled citizens hold all the rights and obligations of any US citizen but have not established residency in the US; typically they are children of an eligible U.S. voter parent but who were born, raised and educated outside the U.S.  Today only 22 states permit non-domiciled citizens to register to vote at the last voting address of their eligible parent. UMOVA guarantees such citizens the right to register and vote in state and local elections, thereby also attaining access to federal balloting.

OVF actively participated in various drafting sessions and provided the ULC with written comments and research results. The drafting committee was chaired by Commissioner Steve Wilburn of Kentucky and was advised by Professor Steve Huefner of the Ohio State University School of Law. OVF was represented by Chip Levengood, Chairman, and by Advisory Board member, Lucy Laederich, U.S. Liaison of FAWCO (Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas). OVF has pledged to work diligently with the ULC as the various state legislatures proceed with passage of UMOVA prior to the 2012 elections.

For further information:

FAWCO article: Landmark Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (UMOVA) approved by Uniform Law Commission

Pew Election Initiatives:
Pew Commends Uniform Law Commission for Military and Overseas Voters Act - Model law for states would remove obstacles and provide more time to vote in all elections