By Saun Waterman
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Half of all U.S. military bases around the world lack legally required facilities where troops can register to vote and get absentee ballots, according to a report from the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Advocacy groups said the report shows the military has let down its service members by failing to implement the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.
“It’s disappointing. This was the will of Congress,” said Eric Eversole, founder of the Military Voter Protection Project.
“Here you have an agency [the Pentagon] that basically said to Congress, ‘We’re not going to do what you told us to do. We think we know more about voter registration than you do and we’re not going to do it.’?”
Under the MOVE Act, all military installations are required to have a voting-assistance office, which, like the “motor voter” offices at departments of motor vehicles, offer individuals the opportunity to register and ask them to sign a form if they decline. The law said the offices should be open by 2010.
When investigators from the inspector general’s office attempted to contact the offices at the military’s 229 bases overseas, they were able reach just 114 — fewer than half.
One of the authors of the act, Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, is sending a letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta this week to ask him to personally intervene, according to his office.
“With great disappointment, we have concluded that the Department of Defense stands in clear violation of a central provision of this federal law,” the letter says, according to extracts provided to The Washington Times.
“The price of the [department’s] failure to follow the law will likely be paid this November by military service members and their families.”
The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the issue Sept. 13, a committee staffer said. State elections officials are due to send out absentee ballots by Sept. 22, Mr. Eversole said.
Pentagon officials blamed a lack of resources for the failure to establish the voting offices, according to the inspector general report.
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