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Monday, May 19, 2008

Cornyn Introduces Bill At Camp Mabry To Ensure Every Military Vote Is Counted

AUSTIN—U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today visited Camp Mabry to announce new legislation to protect the voting rights of our troops serving abroad by ensuring their absentee ballots are delivered back home in time to be counted. Sen. Cornyn was joined by Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson, Texas General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Major General Jose Mayorga, 36th Infantry Division Commander, and representatives from several Texas veterans’ organizations. 

“America was built on the values of democracy, fairness and freedom. It is unacceptable that many of the men and women serving to defend those values are being denied one of our nation’s most basic and cherished rights,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The Military Voting Protection Act (MVP) would take several steps to significantly improve the process of delivering military absentee ballots to ensure every vote matters. Our servicemen and women deserve nothing less as they sacrifice daily to protect our safety, security and freedoms.” 

Texas General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a retired U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel, said: "I commend Senator Cornyn for making sure our fighting men and women overseas - such as my own son - are entitled to enjoy the very same rights they serve to protect. Our soldiers deserve no less." 

Sec. of State Phil Wilson said: “As the chief elections officer for the state of Texas, it is important to me that we make every effort to protect the voting rights of the men and women who are risking their lives on foreign soil to preserve the liberties and freedoms we enjoy in the United States. I look forward to working with Sen. Cornyn in his efforts to ensure the secure transmission of ballots to and from our troops overseas.” 

Texas Adjutant General Charles Rodriguez said: "The proposed legislation is very welcome. More soldier cast-ballots will count. Our military servicemembers deserve every assistance in helping them to exercise their right to vote, a right they sacrifice for every day in service to our country. Sen. Cornyn’s legislative initiative will help reduce the time mail-in ballots from our soldiers take to transit back stateside to local election authorities." 


The 2004 and 2006 elections revealed that our troops overseas continue to face substantial obstacles to their participation in elections back home. A recent report from the Election Assistance Commission suggested that out of the 992,034 military and overseas absentee ballots requested for the 2006 election, over 660,000 never reached election officials to be counted. Of the ballots that did reach election officials, many were rejected for various reasons, including 10 percent of those having been received too late to be counted. 

The MVP Act attempts to reduce delays and red tape in the absentee voting system currently in place for our overseas troops, who have little control over their geographic assignments. The bill would provide for express shipping of completed absentee ballots, allowing tracking of these ballots while in transit. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the ballots of these troops overseas are delivered to the appropriate state election officials by the jurisdiction’s statutory deadline, while safeguarding voter privacy and ballot secrecy. Sen. Cornyn’s bill is the Senate companion to H.R. 5673, which was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 1 by Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R-CA-22]. 

In addition, the MVP Act urges the Secretary of Defense, given advances in modern technology, to study additional ways to improve our military voters’ ability to vote.