We've come a long way in protecting votes of Texas military personnel
The Senator wrote this Letter to the Editor of the San Antonio Express-News in anticipation of Election Day
Nearly 60 years ago, President Harry Truman urged Congress to ensure that members of the military serving abroad could "enjoy the rights they are being asked to fight to preserve." His words acknowledged a problem: Millions of military members overseas could not be sure their votes counted in elections back home. Even in 2008, more than one in four military and overseas ballots were returned as undeliverable, lost, or rejected.
But this year, Texans overseas have the chance to cast their ballots in the federal election with more time and fewer obstacles, whether they are in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the Pacific, or at a base in Germany.
In 2009, the Pew Center on the States published "No Time to Vote," a report showing that the complex laws, procedures and unrealistic deadlines of 25 states — Texas included — left the votes of overseas military personnel at risk of being uncounted. Congress responded with overwhelming bipartisan support by passing the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, and since then, Texas has taken important steps to implement this policy.
Tuesday marks the first major federal elections since the enactment of the legislation, which requires states to allow more time and provide additional ways for ballots to be sent abroad, returned, and counted. This is a momentous occasion for our state, which is home to the nation's largest population of deployed military service members.
The MOVE act rightfully permits those serving our country to cast their votes in federal elections with greater assurance. Overseas voters are now entitled to receive their ballots for all federal elections earlier (45 days before the election) and faster (using technology such as e-mail). If the ballot still fails to arrive in time, there is also a back-up plan – the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB), which can be accessed online, printed as a blank form, filled in manually, and then sent to an election official.
Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen has been the leading advocate in Texas for ensuring our military members can successfully cast their votes. We've come a long way in protecting the votes of Texans abroad. Still, we must do more to ensure that our military can participate in all state elections without obstacles. As chairwoman of the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, I passed legislation that would remove unreasonable difficulties for deployed service members seeking to cast a vote. I remain committed to do all that we can to make sure that the votes of our armed forces are protected and counted. In the 82nd Legislature, I will sponsor legislation in Texas to extend key federal protections to all state elections.
It is important that those who defend and protect our liberties are able to participate in our representative democracy by casting a vote.