by Rachel Sacks Winkler

Frequent military moves often complicate many residency issues, including voting. However, there are a number of efforts to support servicemembers and their families exercise this important civic duty on the local, state and national levels. During our July webinar, Paul Lux, Supervisor of Elections for Okaloosa County, Florida, and a leading expert on military voters, shared resources and best practices.

Paul is uniquely qualified to discuss military voting issues – he is a military spouse himself, and he has served over the past decade in a county with one of the most populous military populations in the country.

Enacted in 1986 in response to concerns from the military community about voting issues, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) protects the right of service members and military families to vote in federal elections regardless of where they are stationed. Each state has adopted similar legislation to address local and state elections, and many are exploring other options to improve voter turnout, ease voter access for service-members and their families as well, including voting by electronic submission, which is slowly being considered and adopted by states. At a minimum, in 2009, the Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act (MOVE), which requires states to provide blank absentee ballots to Uniformed and UOCAVA voters in at least one electronic format — email, fax, or an online delivery system — at least 45 days before an election.

One of the most important resources Paul shared was the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which provides a helpful overview on military-specific voting issues including absentee voting, voter registration, laws impacting military spouses and children, and a section on transitioning and relocating. Did you know there are 237 Installation Voting Assistance Offices on military installations across the world? Those are often also a great forum to get started if you have questions about how a military move may impact your ability to vote.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is another helpful resource. This independent, bipartisan commission is charged with developing guidance to improve voting processes, and they hosts regular stakeholder engagements throughout the country to provide an opportunity for the public to weigh in on voting issues they are currently experiencing.

Paul has dedicated his career to improving the voting process for military voters, including exploring and supporting various research efforts including voting equipment beta testing, certification testing, and internet voting pilots. Paul currently heads a consortium of 34 Florida Counties known collectively as Our Mission: Your Vote, a new blank ballot delivery project being conducting under a grant from the Federal Voting Assistance Project.

I encourage you to check out your county’s Supervisor of Elections website for information about registering to vote in your county, upcoming local, state and national elections, candidates who are running, requirements to start your own campaign to run for public office, and opportunities to support our election system through election protection work.