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Pentagon fails to comply with law to help overseas troops vote, watchdog says

The military services haven’t created offices on all overseas bases to help service members cast their ballots, citing money shortages

John Solomon, WashingtonGuardian.com

With another election lurking around the corner, the Pentagon is getting a bad review for its efforts to comply with a new law designed to make it easier for overseas military personnel to cast their ballots.

The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act was passed by Congress in 2009 and signed into law by President Barack Obama and was supposed to make it easier for both troops deployed overseas and U.S. citizens living abroad to cast ballots back in their home states.

One of the key provisions required each military branch to create an installation voting assistance office (IVAO) for every military base outside an immediate combat zone.

But the Pentagon’s inspector general, the military’s internal watchdog, reported Tuesday it got a disappointing result when it tried to locate such voting assistance offices on each installation earlier this year.

“Results were clear. Our attempts to contact IVAOs failed about 50 percent of the time,” the inspector general reported. “We concluded the Services had not established all the IVAOs as intended by the MOVE Act because, among other issues, the funding was not available.”

The Pentagon estimates it could cost $15 million to $20 million a year to create all the offices required by the law.

In addition, Pentagon officials apparently disagree with the tactics the law recommended, preferring to use advertising and digital outreach efforts to educate overseas troops rather than creating the voting assistance offices.

“DoD officials also posed concerns about IVAO effectiveness,” the inspector general reported. “They noted that younger military personnel were the biggest DoD military population segment and emphasized that IVAOs were likely not the most cost effective way to reach out to them given their familiarity and general preference for communicating via on-line social media and obtaining information frominternet websites.

“They suggested assistance might be provided more effectively and efficiently by targeted advertising,” the report noted.

The inspector general recommended the Pentagon create better survey capabilities to identify the voting needs of service members after the 2012 election and to work with Congress to change the parts of the law that it isn’t complying with.

Pentagon officials said they agreed with both recommendations.

You can read the full report here.

Read the original Washington Guardian story here.

(Copyright 2012 by The Washington Guardian. All Rights Reserved.)


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