Text: H.R.3274 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)

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Introduced in House (07/21/2009)


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[Congressional Bills 111th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 3274 Introduced in House (IH)]

111th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 3274

To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide members 
  of the Armed Forces and their family members equal access to voter 
            registration assistance, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                             July 21, 2009

 Mr. Hunter (for himself, Mr. McCarthy of California, Mr. Wittman, Mr. 
    Fleming, Mr. Rooney, and Mr. Franks of Arizona) introduced the 
     following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House 
Administration, and in addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for 
a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for 
consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the 
                          committee concerned

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
To amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to provide members 
  of the Armed Forces and their family members equal access to voter 
            registration assistance, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Military Voters' Equal Access to 
Voter Registration Act of 2009''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress makes the following findings:
            (1) Members of the Armed Forces and their family members 
        (in this section referred to as ``military voters'') who have 
        sought to vote in recent elections for Federal office have had 
        substantial difficulty doing so, frequently resulting in the 
        disenfranchisement of such military voters.
            (2) Due to the highly transient nature of military service 
        and frequent overseas deployments, military voters are 
        constantly on the move between military installations in the 
        United States and to and from overseas locations. As a result, 
        military voters are typically absent from their home voting 
        jurisdictions on election day and, if military voters wish to 
        exercise their right to vote, they must do so by absentee 
        ballot.
            (3) In 1986, Congress enacted the Uniformed and Overseas 
        Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.) in an 
        attempt to permit military voters to register to vote and vote 
        by absentee ballot in all elections for Federal office. 
        Nevertheless, the absentee voting system, as created under such 
        Act, has consistently failed to ensure that military voters 
        actually receive their unmarked absentee ballots prior to 
        election day. Military voters continue to experience 
        substantial difficulty in registering to vote, updating their 
        voting addresses, and obtaining absentee ballots prior to 
        election day.
            (4) In 1993, Congress enacted the National Voter 
        Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg et seq.) to create a 
        national voter registration system, as well as to provide 
        citizens with increased opportunities to register to vote and 
        receive voting assistance. Such Act, however, failed to ensure 
        that military voters have the same access to voter registration 
        assistance as the civilian population, because their military 
        service typically takes them out of their home voting 
        jurisdictions, where they would otherwise be able to receive 
        such assistance, as required under such Act.
            (5) The Inspector General of the Department of Defense has 
        found that military voters do not receive adequate information 
        and assistance to register to vote and request an absentee 
        ballot. In a survey following the 2004 election, the Inspector 
        General found that only 40 to 50 percent of members of the 
        Armed Forces, and a lesser percentage of their dependents, 
        received voting information or assistance prior to the 
        election. The Inspector General reached a similar conclusion 
        after the 2006 election, finding that less than 40 percent of 
        military voters received voting information and assistance.
            (6) Millions of military voters have been disenfranchised 
        as a result of the current system's inability to provide them 
        with voting information and assistance. A Department of Defense 
        study conducted by the Defense Manpower Data Center found that, 
        in the 2006 election for Federal office, only 22 percent of 
        military voters were able to successfully vote, by either 
        casting an absentee ballot or voting in person, which 
        represents approximately one-half of the percentage of the 
        overall national population that voted in such election. A 
        separate study by the Election Assistance Commission found 
        that, in such election, only a small fraction of military 
        voters were able to request an absentee ballot. The Election 
        Assistance Commission study further showed that, even when 
        military voters were able to request a ballot, a significant 
        percentage of the ballots requested never reached the military 
        voters who requested them, having been sent to outdated 
        addresses from which the military voters had since moved.
            (7) Preliminary data from the 2008 Presidential election 
        shows little or no improvement. According to statistics 
        collected from 5 of the 6 States with the largest number of 
        military voters, only 21.9 percent of all eligible military 
        voters in those States were able to request absentee ballots. 
        Once again, many ballots were sent to outdated addresses and 
        did not reach the intended military voters.
            (8) The ability of military voters to participate in the 
        democratic process would be significantly improved through more 
        robust efforts by the Armed Forces to provide such voters with 
        pertinent voting information and effective assistance when they 
        need it most; namely, when their address changes as a result of 
        reassignment to a new duty station or overseas deployment. The 
        Armed Forces, in so doing, would dramatically increase the 
        ability of military voters to request and obtain absentee 
        ballots, and would also help ensure that local election 
        officials have the most current address of military voters in 
        order to send absentee ballots to such voters.

SEC. 3. TREATMENT OF ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY INSTALLATIONS.

    Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 
1973gg-5) is amended--
            (1) by redesignating subsection (d) as subsection (e); and
            (2) by inserting after subsection (c) the following new 
        subsection:
    ``(d) Active Duty Military Installations.--
            ``(1) Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment 
        of this subsection, each Secretary of a military department 
        shall take appropriate actions to designate an office on each 
        installation of the Armed Forces under the jurisdiction of such 
        Secretary to ensure that each individual described in paragraph 
        (2) is provided the opportunity to register to vote in an 
        election for Federal office, update the individual's voter 
        registration information, and request an absentee ballot under 
        the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
            ``(2) The following individuals are described in this 
        paragraph:
                    ``(A) A member of the Armed Forces--
                            ``(i) who is undergoing a permanent change 
                        of duty station;
                            ``(ii) who is deploying overseas for at 
                        least 6 months;
                            ``(iii) who is or returning from an 
                        overseas deployment of at least 6 months; or
                            ``(iv) who requests assistance related to 
                        voter registration.
                    ``(B) A dependent of a member of the Armed Forces, 
                if the dependent--
                            ``(i) requests assistance related to voter 
                        registration; and
                            ``(ii) is at least 18 years of age.
            ``(3) The assistance described in paragraph (1) shall be 
        provided to a member of the Armed Forces--
                    ``(A) described in clause (i) of paragraph (2)(A), 
                as part of the administrative processing of the member 
                upon arrival at the new duty station of the member;
                    ``(B) described in clause (ii) of such paragraph, 
                as part of the administrative processing of the member 
                upon deployment from the home duty station of the 
                member;
                    ``(C) described in clause (iii) of such paragraph, 
                as part of the administrative processing of the member 
                upon return to the home duty station of the member; and
                    ``(D) described in clause (iv) of such paragraph, 
                at any time the member requests such assistance.
            ``(4) An office designated by the Secretary of a military 
        department under paragraph (1) shall be considered to be a 
        voter registration agency designated under subsection (a)(2) of 
        this section for all purposes of this Act.''.

SEC. 4. OUTREACH FOR MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES AND THEIR FAMILY 
              MEMBERS.

    (a) In General.--The Secretary of each military department, or the 
Presidential designee under section 101(a) of the Uniformed and 
Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq.), shall 
take appropriate actions to inform members of the Armed Forces and the 
dependents of such members of the assistance available under section 
7(d) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 1973gg-
5), as added by section 3, including--
            (1) the availability of voter registration assistance at 
        offices designated under paragraph (1) of such section 7(d); 
        and
            (2) the time, location, and manner in which a member of the 
        Armed Forces and a dependent of such a member may utilize such 
        assistance.
    (b) Reports.--
            (1) Report on status of implementation.--
                    (A) Report required.--Not later than 180 days after 
                the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of 
                each military department, or the Presidential designee 
                under section 101(a) of the Uniformed and Overseas 
                Citizens Absentee Voting Act (42 U.S.C. 1973ff), shall 
                submit to the relevant committees of Congress a report 
                on the status of the implementation of section 7(d) of 
                the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 
                1973gg-5), as added by section 3.
                    (B) Elements.--The report under subparagraph (A) 
                shall include a detailed description of the specific 
                steps taken towards the implementation of such section, 
                including the designation of offices under paragraph 
                (1) of such section 7(d).
            (2) Report on utilization of voter registration 
        assistance.--
                    (A) Reports required.--Not later than 1 year after 
                the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of 
                each military department, or the Presidential designee, 
                shall submit to the relevant committees of Congress a 
                report on the utilization of voter registration 
                assistance provided under such section 7(d).
                    (B) Elements.--The report under subparagraph (A) 
                shall include--
                            (i) a description of the specific programs 
                        implemented by each military department of the 
                        Armed Forces pursuant to such section 7(d); and
                            (ii) the number of military servicemembers 
                        and dependents who utilized voter registration 
                        assistance provided under such section 7(d).
            (3) Relevant committees of congress defined.--In this 
        subsection, the term ``relevant committees of Congress'' 
        means--
                    (A) the Committees on Appropriations, Armed 
                Services, and Rules and Administration of the Senate; 
                and
                    (B) the Committees on Appropriations, Armed 
                Services, and House Administration of the House of 
                Representatives.
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