Text: H.R.3274 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)All Bill Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (07/21/2009)


111th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 3274

To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide members of the Armed Forces and their family members equal access to voter registration assistance, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 21, 2009

Mr. Hunter (for himself, Mr. McCarthy of California, Mr. Wittman, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Rooney, and Mr. Franks of Arizona) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration, and in addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide members of the Armed Forces and their family members equal access to voter registration assistance, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as the “Military Voters' Equal Access to Voter Registration Act of 2009”.

SEC. 2. Findings.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Members of the Armed Forces and their family members (in this section referred to as “military voters”) who have sought to vote in recent elections for Federal office have had substantial difficulty doing so, frequently resulting in the disenfranchisement of such military voters.

(2) Due to the highly transient nature of military service and frequent overseas deployments, military voters are constantly on the move between military installations in the United States and to and from overseas locations. As a result, military voters are typically absent from their home voting jurisdictions on election day and, if military voters wish to exercise their right to vote, they must do so by absentee ballot.

(3) In 1986, Congress enacted the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.) in an attempt to permit military voters to register to vote and vote by absentee ballot in all elections for Federal office. Nevertheless, the absentee voting system, as created under such Act, has consistently failed to ensure that military voters actually receive their unmarked absentee ballots prior to election day. Military voters continue to experience substantial difficulty in registering to vote, updating their voting addresses, and obtaining absentee ballots prior to election day.

(4) In 1993, Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.) to create a national voter registration system, as well as to provide citizens with increased opportunities to register to vote and receive voting assistance. Such Act, however, failed to ensure that military voters have the same access to voter registration assistance as the civilian population, because their military service typically takes them out of their home voting jurisdictions, where they would otherwise be able to receive such assistance, as required under such Act.

(5) The Inspector General of the Department of Defense has found that military voters do not receive adequate information and assistance to register to vote and request an absentee ballot. In a survey following the 2004 election, the Inspector General found that only 40 to 50 percent of members of the Armed Forces, and a lesser percentage of their dependents, received voting information or assistance prior to the election. The Inspector General reached a similar conclusion after the 2006 election, finding that less than 40 percent of military voters received voting information and assistance.

(6) Millions of military voters have been disenfranchised as a result of the current system’s inability to provide them with voting information and assistance. A Department of Defense study conducted by the Defense Manpower Data Center found that, in the 2006 election for Federal office, only 22 percent of military voters were able to successfully vote, by either casting an absentee ballot or voting in person, which represents approximately one-half of the percentage of the overall national population that voted in such election. A separate study by the Election Assistance Commission found that, in such election, only a small fraction of military voters were able to request an absentee ballot. The Election Assistance Commission study further showed that, even when military voters were able to request a ballot, a significant percentage of the ballots requested never reached the military voters who requested them, having been sent to outdated addresses from which the military voters had since moved.

(7) Preliminary data from the 2008 Presidential election shows little or no improvement. According to statistics collected from 5 of the 6 States with the largest number of military voters, only 21.9 percent of all eligible military voters in those States were able to request absentee ballots. Once again, many ballots were sent to outdated addresses and did not reach the intended military voters.

(8) The ability of military voters to participate in the democratic process would be significantly improved through more robust efforts by the Armed Forces to provide such voters with pertinent voting information and effective assistance when they need it most; namely, when their address changes as a result of reassignment to a new duty station or overseas deployment. The Armed Forces, in so doing, would dramatically increase the ability of military voters to request and obtain absentee ballots, and would also help ensure that local election officials have the most current address of military voters in order to send absentee ballots to such voters.

SEC. 3. Treatment of Active Duty Military Installations.

Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg–5) is amended—

(1) by redesignating subsection (d) as subsection (e); and

(2) by inserting after subsection (c) the following new subsection:

“(d) Active Duty Military Installations.—

“(1) Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, each Secretary of a military department shall take appropriate actions to designate an office on each installation of the Armed Forces under the jurisdiction of such Secretary to ensure that each individual described in paragraph (2) is provided the opportunity to register to vote in an election for Federal office, update the individual's voter registration information, and request an absentee ballot under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

“(2) The following individuals are described in this paragraph:

“(A) A member of the Armed Forces—

“(i) who is undergoing a permanent change of duty station;

“(ii) who is deploying overseas for at least 6 months;

“(iii) who is or returning from an overseas deployment of at least 6 months; or

“(iv) who requests assistance related to voter registration.

“(B) A dependent of a member of the Armed Forces, if the dependent—

“(i) requests assistance related to voter registration; and

“(ii) is at least 18 years of age.

“(3) The assistance described in paragraph (1) shall be provided to a member of the Armed Forces—

“(A) described in clause (i) of paragraph (2)(A), as part of the administrative processing of the member upon arrival at the new duty station of the member;

“(B) described in clause (ii) of such paragraph, as part of the administrative processing of the member upon deployment from the home duty station of the member;

“(C) described in clause (iii) of such paragraph, as part of the administrative processing of the member upon return to the home duty station of the member; and

“(D) described in clause (iv) of such paragraph, at any time the member requests such assistance.

“(4) An office designated by the Secretary of a military department under paragraph (1) shall be considered to be a voter registration agency designated under subsection (a)(2) of this section for all purposes of this Act.”.

SEC. 4. Outreach for members of the armed forces and their family members.

(a) In General.—The Secretary of each military department, or the Presidential designee under section 101(a) of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.), shall take appropriate actions to inform members of the Armed Forces and the dependents of such members of the assistance available under section 7(d) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg–5), as added by section 3, including—

(1) the availability of voter registration assistance at offices designated under paragraph (1) of such section 7(d); and

(2) the time, location, and manner in which a member of the Armed Forces and a dependent of such a member may utilize such assistance.

(b) Reports.—

(1) REPORT ON STATUS OF IMPLEMENTATION.—

(A) REPORT REQUIRED.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of each military department, or the Presidential designee under section 101(a) of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff), shall submit to the relevant committees of Congress a report on the status of the implementation of section 7(d) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg–5), as added by section 3.

(B) ELEMENTS.—The report under subparagraph (A) shall include a detailed description of the specific steps taken towards the implementation of such section, including the designation of offices under paragraph (1) of such section 7(d).

(2) REPORT ON UTILIZATION OF VOTER REGISTRATION ASSISTANCE.—

(A) REPORTS REQUIRED.—Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of each military department, or the Presidential designee, shall submit to the relevant committees of Congress a report on the utilization of voter registration assistance provided under such section 7(d).

(B) ELEMENTS.—The report under subparagraph (A) shall include—

(i) a description of the specific programs implemented by each military department of the Armed Forces pursuant to such section 7(d); and

(ii) the number of military servicemembers and dependents who utilized voter registration assistance provided under such section 7(d).

(3) RELEVANT COMMITTEES OF CONGRESS DEFINED.—In this subsection, the term “relevant committees of Congress” means—

(A) the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, and Rules and Administration of the Senate; and

(B) the Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services, and House Administration of the House of Representatives.