Heritage Foundation: Military Voting Rights Conference

On July 19th a Military Voting Conference was held in Washington, D.C. by the Heritage Foundation: <video>

As one might expect a conference sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, introduced by former Attorney General Ed Meese, with keynote by Senator Cornyn, did get political at times.  For those interested in Military voting and the risks of Internet voting, overall the conference was quite informative and provided a variety of views, even though did not include computer scientists or security experts.

8:45 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks
Edwin Meese III, Chairman, Center for Legal & Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation

9:00 a.m.  Panel 1 – A State Perspective on the MOVE Act and Military Voting
Natalie Tennant, Secretary of State of West Virginia
Beth Chapman, Secretary of State of Alabama
Mike Ertel, Supervisor of Elections, Seminole County, Florida
Charles “Cully” Stimson, Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation (Moderator)

9:45 a.m. Panel 2 – Exploring Ways to Increase Military Voting Participation in the 2012 Election
Bob Carey
, Director, Federal Voting Assistance Program
Donald Palmer, Secretary, Virginia State Board of Elections and former Director of Elections for Florida
Eric Eversole, Executive Director, Military Voter Protection Project (Moderator)

10:30 a.m. Keynote Address:
An Author’s Assessment of the Effectiveness of the MOVE Act
The Honorable John Cornyn (R-TX), United States Senator

11:15 a.m. Panel 3 – Exploring Ways to Enforce Military Voting Rights in Federal and State
Chris Coates, Former Section Chief, Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Christian Adams, Founder, Election Law Center
Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation (Moderator)

12:00 p.m.Keynote Address:
Understanding the Sacrifices of Our Men and Women in Uniform and the Importance of Protecting Their Rights at Home
Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., USN (ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Some specific observations:

  • Many panelists expressed concern with online voting but also strong support of electronic ballot delivery and its value to resolve most problems (I agree).
  • Other panelists have no fears of Internet voting, say the risks are worth it, and misinterpret or attempt to transfer opposition to online voting as distrust of the military voter. They imply security experts are worried about military voters, rather than hackers and insiders.
  • Mike Ertel, Supervisor of Elections, Seminole County, Florida is concerned that people view online blank ballot delivery as ‘online voting’ and taint it with the same brush.
  • Several expressed upset with low compliance by states and the Dept of Defense with the MOVE Act and were disappointed that Eric Holder has not prosecuted (here I suspect political bias). Others defended the states and DOD for the short time and lack of funding for implementation.
  • I was  surprised to learn that there is significant disagreement about the statistics on military participation in elections – the figures always look low, but some claim that all ‘in person’ military voters are not counted as voting, but are counted in the statistics as if they have not voted. Bob Carey, FVAP Director said, that when adjusted for age, the participation is about the same as the general population. It is still clear that there is a problem when many request ballots, but in the end are unable to vote!
  • Several mentions of the Military’s “right to vote”.  That sounds fine to me, yet my recall is that citizens do not have a right to vote and that several in Congress have pressed for legislation to provide that right, apparently in Bush v. Gore the Supreme Court agreed.

Among the missing from this and some other discussions:

  • Computer Scientists and Security Experts, including those from the Department of Defense
  • We note lack of concern for the rights, convenience, and support of other overseas voters in addition to Military voters. Such voters include: Military Contractors, State Department Employees, Peace Corps volunteers, business people, and NGO staff.
  • Actual recent experience of Military and Overseas voters.  Generals’ experience can be outdated. When they are in the field, they do not live the same life as the average soldier or overseas citizen.
  • Despite the claims of success in West Virginia’s Internet  voting pilot, it has not been continued by the Legislature, and, as we understand it online delivery of ballots and absentee applications, followed by return in a single envelope would be much more economical, much less risky, and more effectively relieve barriers, which hamper military voter and keep their votes from being counted.

Once again, despite the limitations, the conference is well worth viewing for what it does provide.


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