Voting assistance for military men, women…the best it’s ever been?


by Joe Arnold

Posted on September 10, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 11 at 9:19 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Speaking from an undisclosed location somewhere in the Middle East,  Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) said U.S. military postal workers are handling ballots for the fall election with care and protecting the integrity of the process.

Kentucky's chief election officer, however, did not directly address recent concerns that the Defense Department has not adequately implemented the requirements of the 2009 MOVE Act, intended to increase troop access to the ballot box.

"I've gotten a first hand look of several of the military postal facilities as well as the joint military postal facility and I am so impressed," Lundergran Grimes told WHAS11 via Skype from her hotel room, "and just truly overwhelmed with the commitment and dedication that our men and women in uniform show not only on the battlefield but to those processing of the ballots as well."

Lundergan Grimes said she and the secretaries of state from Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana and Michigan are visiting U.S. troops and military leadership to review delivery, processing and return of ballots for the November election.  For security reasons, she said she could not reveal her location, but acknowledged it was the first time she has visited an "active area of engagement."

Despite the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act requirement of a voter assistance office at every U.S. military installation, a recent Defense Department Inspector General report concluded that the Pentagon could only verify that half of those posts actually had such offices.

"In a military environment, things change," explained Pam Mitchell, the acting director of the Department of Defense's Federal Voting Assistance Program at a news conference last week. "Military members are reassigned.  They may be reassigned to other posts.  They may be reassigned on the same post or base.  Things change.  We have joint bases that grow.  We have other kinds of things that happen."

"Voting assistance for our absentee military and overseas citizen voters has never been better," Mitchell asserted.

WHAS11 asked Lundergan Grimes if - based on what she has seen during her trip - whether she is satisfied with Defense Department efforts to comply with the law.

"From what I have seen during my time in observing, the APO's, the army postal offices as well as the joint military postal terminals, they are handling the ballots with care, they are protecting the integrity of the process," Lundergan Grimes said.  "and now it's up to us to see how we can help streamline the process so that we can reduce the time that it takes to either get a ballot over here or get the ballot returned back to the U.S."

Grimes recently filed suit and obtained a court order to move up Kentucky's schedule on when the state mails absentee ballots for special elections.  While Kentucky law states that the ballots cannot  be mailed until 27 days before the election, federal law states that the ballot must be mailed by 45 days before the election.