Beaufort News

U.S. Rep. Wilson pushes effort to ensure deployed troops get to cast ballots

Some deployed U.S. troops did not get their ballots for this past November's general election as soon as they should have, and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson says he will continue his push to ensure that doesn't happen again in next year's presidential election.

Wilson, R-West Columbia, said he plans to call a hearing soon of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel to discuss problems some states had complying with the Military and Overseas Empowerment Act, also known as the MOVE Act.

"Every election is important, but the presidential election in 2012 is a very crucial election for the future of our country," said Wilson, whose 1st District includes Beaufort County. "We need to ensure that the military, which makes it possible for us to even hold elections, can receive their ballots in time to have their votes counted."

Wilson, who chairs the subcommittee, participated in a similar hearing of the House Administration Committee last month, when several secretaries of state, U.S. Justice Department officials and representatives from military and overseas voter-advocacy groups testified, according to congressional records.

According to the Justice Department, several states -- notably New York, Nevada and Illinois -- failed to get ballots to troops deployed overseas at least 45 days before the Nov. 5 general election, as required by the MOVE Act.

South Carolina was among the states that sent ballots on time, according to the Justice Department.

Wilson said he expects to call the hearing after he has received a report from the Department of Defense detailing the voting experiences of deployed troops. The report is expected to be released later this month, he said.

The 45-day deadline was enacted as part of the MOVE Act passed by Congress in 2009 to protect the voting rights of service members, their families and other overseas citizens.

The law also requires states to make voter-registration applications, absentee-ballot applications and blank ballots available electronically.

Some secretaries of states have countered that a year was not enough time for states to overhaul elections law, and that caused the delays.

Wilson said such excuses won't fly next year.

"Look, I know there are challenges," Wilson said. "But there are states and counties that were proactive and got it done. I plan on inviting some of those elections officials before my committee so they can explain how to do it. We absolutely have to get ballots to our troops overseas in time for them to cast their ballots in a timely fashion."