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The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act: Overview and Issues

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Publication Date: September 2008

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS20764

Topic: Military and defense (Military personnel)
Politics (Elections and voting)

Type: Report

Coverage: United States

Abstract:

Members of the military and U.S. citizens who live abroad are eligible to register and vote absentee in federal elections under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986. The law was enacted to improve absentee registration and voting for this group of voters and to consolidate existing laws. Since 1942, a number of federal laws have been enacted to assist these voters: the Soldier Voting Act of 1942 (amended in 1944), the Federal Voting Assistance Act of 1955, the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act of 1975 (both the 1955 and 1975 laws were amended in 1978 to improve procedures), and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986. The law is administered by the Secretary of Defense, who delegates that responsibility to the Director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program
at the Department of Defense (DOD).

Improvements to UOCAVA were necessary as the result of controversy
surrounding ballots received in Florida from military and overseas voters in the 2000 presidential election. Both the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2002 (P.L. 107-107; S. 1438) and the Help America Vote Act (P.L. 107-252; H.R.3295) included provisions concerning military and overseas voting. The President signed P.L. 107-107 on December 28, 2001, and P.L. 107-252 on October 29, 2002. The Defense Authorization Act for FY2005 amended UOCAVA as well, to ease the rules for use of
the federal write-in ballot in place of state absentee ballots. The act was signed by the President on October 28, 2004. This report will be updated periodically to reflect new developments.