The overarching problem is the scant resources allotted civilian voters, who outnumber the military overseas by at least 8 to 1. While all applaud the goal of making sure men and women fighting for our country can exercise their right to vote, civilians point out that they are Americans, too. And the FVAP has a history of favoring the military, not least because the Department of Defense has a captive, easily identified audience and far more money and muscle than the State Department. Citizens abroad are far harder to find than soldiers: Embassies have direct contact only with a small minority of those who have registered to be alerted and evacuated in case of a disaster -- though one might call mass disenfranchisement a disaster of another degree.
Highly publicized missteps this year have hardly restored faith in the FVAP. Civilian voters still have trouble getting through to the agency and are barred from the e-mail ballot-request and delivery Web site that is available to soldiers from ten states. More worryingly, a pilot e-mail voting system signed on to by Missouri, Utah and North Dakota, in which soldiers can e-mail ballots to a contractor that then faxes those ballots to local jurisdictions, is being operated by Omega Technologies, headed by a former Republican Party donor, according to the New York Times.
The Times also reports that earlier this week two Democratic members of Congress, Henry Waxman of California and Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the FVAP. Among their concerns is that the agency's online ballot-retrieval system is not open to most civilians abroad.
Miller, the AOK lawyer, says the FVAP, which moved only two years ago from the Pentagon department that buys soap and toilet paper into the personnel department, "is basically focused on the military and doesn't care." A Department of Defense insider involved in getting out the vote overseas puts it more harshly: "The senior military leadership will only admit they have a responsibility to help civilians get involved in elections if you force it down their throat. They're only interested in the soldiers."
These efforts may suppress the overseas vote, but if there really is an 8 to 1 advantage over the military, the overall trend combined clearly is a Kerry trend here- if the vote can be assured.