Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz Thursday joined Connecticut National Guard Adjutant General, Major General Thad Martin, to announce that absentee ballots for the General Election on November 2, 2010 are now available to overseas military voters. Pursuant to the federal MOVE (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment) Act, enacted last year by Congress and President Obama, absentee ballots are required to be made available electronically to members of the military serving overseas 45 days prior to the general election. In practical terms, this means the ballots can be sent electronically via email or fax to troops in the field serving abroad starting on September 18th.
“We want to send the very clear message to troops overseas and their families that absentee ballots for members of the military are now available and they can be obtained electronically,” said Secretary Bysiewicz. “We will be working with leadership at the National Guard to communicate this to our military troops overseas and to their families. We want everyone to participate in the 2010 elections, especially those brave men and women in uniform who are putting their lives on the line every day to defend our precious freedoms at home, including our right to vote. It is now easier than it has ever been for our military serving overseas to vote by absentee ballot.”
Major General Thad Martin, Adjutant General of the Connecticut National Guard, said, “This streamlining of the absentee ballot process is a timely improvement for our soldiers and airmen deployed to some very remote and austere locations. Just this week, we notified the commanders of the five units that will be deployed through the election of the new absentee ballot voting process available to the service members in their units. Service members from all across the services and components account for about one percent of the United States population. These Patriotic Americans work every day to protect our rights and freedoms while here at home and abroad. To me, it’s just the right thing to do to ensure we provide them with every opportunity to exercise their right to be heard through the election process. This change goes a long way toward that end.”
In order to obtain an absentee ballot from overseas, members of the military who are registered to vote are encouraged to visit the Secretary of the State’s website www.sots.ct.gov or their town’s website to download an application for an absentee ballot. The application can be sent to town clerk’s offices electronically, and the absentee ballot will be returned to the voters electronically. Once received, the ballot must be printed out and sent back to the town clerk’s office via regular mail. Absentee ballots will be counted for the general election will be counted in Connecticut as long as they are received by Town Clerks by 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday November 2, 2010.
Enacted in 2009, the MOVE Act was designed to cut down on significant delays in the receipt of absentee ballots by military voters serving overseas due to slow mail service. A 2008 study by the Pew Center on the States found that on average it took nearly 57 days for absentee ballots to be sent to military personnel serving overseas and back to the town clerk’s offices in Connecticut. This time lag made it very difficult for overseas military personnel to have their absentee ballots actually count by Election Day. It is estimated that the MOVE Act will reduce the processing time for overseas military voters voting by absentee ballot by nearly a month. The 2010 General Election is the first election where the electronic availability of absentee ballots for members of the military serving overseas is required.
“We anticipate that this new law won’t solve all of the mail problems entirely, but it will reduce the absentee ballot processing time by nearly a month. The MOVE act is a giant leap forward in ensuring election participation for our troops.”
Joining Secretary Bysiewicz and Major General Martin in making the announcement were state representative Ted Graziani (D-Ellington), chairman of the Select Committee on Veterans Affairs, and Joe Camposeo, President of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association. As a reminder to military voters and all voters, the deadline to register to vote is Tuesday October 19th by mail, and eligible voters have until Tuesday October 26th to register in-person at their town offices.