The Vote and the Draft

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289
Susan Lehman, 212-998-6318

The Vote and the Draft

NEW YORK - The voting
problems military and overseas voters face can be solved by a relatively
simple fix to the voter registration system, two new reports released today
by the Brennan Center for Justice show.

These reports provide a concrete roadmap for addressing the problematic
disparity in the ways that the American military and overseas population
vote. Members of Congress are examining the issue: just last week, the
Senate passed the bipartisan Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act
(MOVE), sponsored by Senators Schumer and Chambliss, which will make it
easier for military and overseas voters to receive ballots, voter
registration forms, and other election materials on time.

"MOVE is the critical first step in making voting easier for military
voters," said Wendy Weiser, Director of the Voting Rights and
Elections Project. "We applaud Senators Schumer and Chambliss, and the
bipartisan group of sixty co-sponsors, for passing this essential
legislation."

"But now it is time to take the necessary next step to protect the
rights of military voters. Service men and women who live in the United
States vote at a rate 10% lower than the general population and the
administrative problems they face result in nearly 20% fewer voter
registrations," Weiser continued. "The problems are more acute
for those stationed overseas. We must ensure that the men and women in the
military risking their lives to protect our democracy can participate
successfully in it by making long overdue upgrades to the way we register
voters."

Multiple overseas deployments and reassignments around the U.S. account for
many of the registration problems service members and their families face
when voting. Registering Military and Overseas Citizens to Vote
shows that voter registration modernization (VRM) would dramatically
decrease these problems using readily available tools and databases.

Automatic Registration in the United States: The
Selective Service Example
shows that the Selective
Service's practice of automatically registering young men to prepare for a
draft through data sharing with other government agencies offers a
blueprint for how to modernize the voter registration system.

"Under VRM, military and overseas voters would be affirmatively
registered by election officials, ensuring that no voter is disenfranchised
because his or her name does not appear on the registration rolls,"
says Registering Military and Overseas Citizens to Vote author
Adam Skaggs. "And because registration rolls would reflect updated
email and traditional mailing addresses, election officials would be able to
avoid many of the problems associated with delivering absentee ballots to
military and overseas voters."

"The Selective Service example
shows that the technology and infrastructure are already in place to create
a modernized registration system," says report author Laura Seago.

"If the government is able to
identify and automatically register young men for the military draft in the
name of our nation's defense, surely it is worth it to mobilize the same
technology and resources to fortify the democratic process at the heart of
our nation's character."

Both reports are part of the Brennan
Center's series on voter registration modernization, or VRM. Last year the
Brennan Center proposed a system in which the states
would register all citizens, automatically and permanently to assure that
registered voters who move within their states can vote. The Center also
recently released Expanding Democracy: Voter Registration Around the
World
, a study of twenty voter registration systems that
shows that in nearly every democracy surveyed, government helps assure that
every eligible citizen is registered to vote.

VRM proposes to automatically and
affirmatively register all eligible citizens to vote using information from
lists maintained by other government agencies with which many citizens
regularly interact, including departments of motor vehicles, the military,
social service agencies, and the Department of Education's student loan
program.

For more information or to set up an
interview with Wendy Weiser, Adam Skaggs or Laura Seago, please contact
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or jeanine.plant-chirlin@nyu.edu.

###

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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