I. In Focus This Week
FVAP submits 2016 post-election report to Congress
Report shows voting assistance efforts work
The Federal Voting Assistance Program’s 2016 Post-Election Report to Congress shows that its voting assistance efforts work: FVAP continues to make progress in reducing obstacles to absentee voting for active duty military and has expanded outreach initiatives for voters covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).
"I am proud of the work accomplished by FVAP to support military members, their families, and Americans living abroad throughout the 2016 cycle," FVAP Director David Beirne said.
As was true in 2012, about three quarters of voting Service members did so via absentee ballot. In 2016, FVAP increased outreach efforts, striving to reach all Service members multiple times through channels including email, postal mail, signage and materials on military installations, social media, news media, and FVAP.gov. FVAP also supplied materials to each Service's VAOs, produced a well-received video aimed at military leaders to stress the importance of supporting voting assistance programs, and worked closely with State election officials.
"The post-election data show that military members and overseas citizens are more likely to return their ballots when they use a DoD voting assistance resource — and our 2016 outreach activities were highly effective in letting them know about these resources. However, we must do more, particularly for first-time voters who need help navigating the process.”
FVAP materials focused on helping Service members who want to vote overcome obstacles in the absentee voting process, such as:
- Providing recommended early absentee voting deadlines
- Voting requirements and processes that vary by State -- and change often
- Not knowing how or where to register or vote
- Failing to sign election materials or affidavits
- Missing registration or ballot submission deadlines.
Service members' interest and voting rates (participation) fluctuate from election to election. For the past four election cycles, they have been higher during presidential election years and lower during midterm elections.
“A striking finding from our analyses is the reported drop in participation rate among military personnel in the 2016 election as compared to the general population — but it’s important to keep in mind that fluctuation in voting rates is normal and typically correlated with interest in the election,” Beirne said.
Comparing the two most recent presidential election years, the percentage who said they were interested in the election in 2016 dropped 8 percentage points from 2012; registration was down 13 points; and participation (submitting a ballot) was down 12 percentage points. Fluctuation in voting rates typically correlates with election interest, a measure of motivation.
“The data show that more military members cited motivation-related reasons for not voting and were less interested in the election in 2016 than in 2012,” Beirne said. “We are continuing our analysis to statistically test whether this decrease can be attributed more to the decline in motivation or to barriers to the absentee voting process.”
FVAP will release its findings, in addition to research on the voting experiences of U.S. citizens residing abroad, later this year.
The full report includes:
- voter registration and participation by military members;
- assessments of FVAP activities and usage of voter assistance resources;
- descriptions of cooperation between States and the Federal Government in carrying out the requirements of UOCAVA; and
- findings from post-election surveys of active duty military members, State and local election officials and Voting Assistance Officers.
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