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Tennesseans Serving Overseas Have Little Time to Vote

January 7, 2009

Nashville, TN – Americans serving overseas are getting short-changed on their voting rights according to a new report. The analysis by the Pew Center for the States calculated state-by-state the amount of time it takes for absentee ballots to be requested, sent, returned and tabulated. It found many in the military don't have time to cast their vote and return it by the deadline.

According to David Becker, Pew’s Make Voting Work project manager, 16 states, including Tennessee, were the worst at allotting enough time for military personnel to get their ballot in to be counted.

"Frankly, we’re failing in our responsibility to ensure access to our service members and voters living, working and serving overseas. Right now, while these voters are serving America, America’s voting system is not serving them."

The report concluded Tennessee military voters would need an additional 15 days to meet the state voting requirements. He says Pew is working with states on how to improve laws and procedures, and how to make voting requirements more uniform for Americans overseas.

"There are a great number of local election officials that are doing a really great job and doing the best they can with the laws that they’re stuck with."

In Becker's opinion, Tennessee could improve overseas voting in three ways: send ballots out earlier and accept them later; allow for electronic transfer of ballots; and expand the use of federal write-in absentee ballots for local and state elections.

The report is available at www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=47924.


Dick Layman, Public News Service - TN