Fact Check

Overseas Voters

The Obama administration disenfranchised 2.8 million overseas military voters by failing to send them absentee ballots on time?

Published Nov 1, 2010

Claim:   The Obama administration disenfranchised 2.8 million overseas military voters by failing to send them absentee ballots on time.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2010]

Today, Fox News' Megyn Kelly reports that the OBAMA Dept of Justice under Eric holder, has allowed a deadline for the military men and women overseas to receive their absentee ballots and cast their votes to expire. They had more than 6 months to approve the sending of the ballots. BUT THEY DID NOTHING AND LET THE DEADLINE COME

This will stop 2,800,000 votes from being cast in the November election.
Military votes ... nearly all of which are anti-OBAMA.





Origins:   The gist of the e-mail reproduced above is inaccurate and exaggerated in its claims that the Obama administration's Department of Justice disenfranchised 2.8 million military voters by failing to send or approve their absentee ballots on time. The dissemination of absentee ballots is the responsibility of the individual states' local jurisdictions, not the Justice Department. Moreover, the number of U.S. military personnel serving overseas is nowhere close to the 2.8 million figure claimed here. (As of the beginning of 2010, the total number of U.S. active duty military personnel was about 1.4 million worldwide, with over 1.1 million of that total being stationed either in the U.S. proper or in U.S. territories.)

The portion of truth to be found here is the possibility that a relatively small number of overseas voters may not have received their absentee ballots for the November 2010 election before a federally mandated deadline. In response to ongoing issues with ballots cast by overseas military voters failing to be counted in U.S. elections, in 2009 Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, a law which requires states to take standard measures to ensure that absentee ballots are distributed to military personnel and other overseas voters in a timely manner so that U.S. citizens who are outside the U.S. have adequate time to cast their ballots. However, some states have encountered difficulties in meeting the requirements of the MOVE Act in time for the November 2010 elections:

Last year, Congress enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE), a law directed at states and designed to prevent disenfranchisement of overseas and military voters. In brief, the 2009 legislation:

  • Eliminates notarization requirements for overseas ballots in the states that still require them and relaxes certain registration rules imposed specifically on voters subject to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
  • Requires all states to make voter registration and absentee ballot applications and general election information available electronically. The law also mandates that all states make a standardized federal write-in absentee ballot available online when official ballots do not arrive in time.
  • Requires all states to mark a 45-day period for absentee ballots to be distributed to voters and returned.

The MOVE provisions sound straightforward enough, but some states are having a tough time carrying them out. Officials cite election-cycle schedules that preclude meeting the 45-day ballot "round-trip" requirement. Changing schedules, some argue, might require amendments to state constitutions.

Some state officials complain that switching from a traditional paper ballot system to an absentee voter-accommodating electronic one — the ultimate solution — is too costly, at least in the current economic climate.

In October 2010, Rep. Joe Wilson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, charged that up to sixteen states (such as Illinois) had failed to meet the requirements of the MOVE Act and had not sent absentee ballots to all their eligible voters overseas on time, and he called for an investigation into the matter:

Rep. Joe Wilson, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said reports that many states failed to send out absentee ballots on time have led him to call for hearings about the military voting process.

"I was extremely disappointed to learn that many states across the nation have failed to mail ballots to our troops, ultimately denying them a voice in this election," he said.

"Our brave men and women serving America's interests overseas should have their votes counted accurately and in a timely matter. When it comes to ensuring military votes, compliance is non-negotiable."

Sixteen states failed to meet the 45-day pre-election deadline, which is why Wilson and other lawmakers have called for an investigation.

(The referenced states did not all completely fail to send absentee ballots to all their residents currently stationed abroad. In Illinois, for example, the MOVE Act-mandated absentee ballot deadline was reportedly missed in one-third of that state's counties, affecting approximately 2,800 voters.)

Last updated:   31 October 2010


    Martinez, Luis.   "For First Time, More US Troops in Afghanistan Than Iraq."

    ABCNews.com.   24 May 2010.

    Maze, Rick.   "Lawmaker Wants Hearings on Military Voting Woes."

    Air Force Times.   25 October 2010.

    Pallasch, Abdon M.   "Most Counties Shipped Ballots to Military, Overseas Voters."

    Chicago Sun-Times.   13 October 2010.

    Yount, Benjamin.   "Lawmakers May Probe Late Military Ballots."

    WRSP-TV [Springfield/Decatur].   26 October 2010.

    Zielinski, Adam.   "Military Ballots May Not Count in Illinois."

    WLS-AM [Chicago].

    States News Service.   "The Military's Right to Vote."

    8 October 2010.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags