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Evaluation of Department of Defense Voting Assistance Programs for Calendar Year 2019 (DODIG-2020-076)

Evaluation

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Publicly Released: April 2, 2020

Objective

In accordance with the requirements of section 1566, title 10, United States Code (10 U.S.C § 1566 [2014]), as amended, the objective of our evaluation was to report on:

• the effectiveness of voting assistance programs during the preceding calendar year; and

• the level of compliance with the voting assistance programs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps during the preceding calendar year.

Additionally, we determined whether the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff complied with the requirements of DoD Instruction 1000.04, “Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).”

 

Background

Public Law 99‑410, “The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act” (UOCAVA), as modified by the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act and other provisions, states that the right to vote is important to Service members, their eligible family members, and other eligible overseas voters. The law establishes voting assistance programs intended to help these absentee voters register, vote, and have their vote counted.

Another law, 10 U.S.C. § 1566 requires the DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG) to complete an annual report by March 31st, and the Inspectors General of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, to annually:

• review the compliance and effectiveness of their Service’s voting assistance program, and

• report the results to the DoD OIG in time to be reflected in the OIG’s March 31st report to Congress.

 

Service Voting Assistance Program Report Summaries

We report on the annual assessments of the Military Services voting assistance programs for 2019 submitted by the Inspectors General of the Services. We found that each of the Service IGs applied the measures of performance and effect, illustrated Service coordination with the FVAP office, and described distribution of voting materials and contact with eligible voters. In addition, the Service IGs applied a standardized checklist for their inspections of voting assistance programs in seven specific program areas: staffing, training, material distribution, communication and information network, commander and installation‑level involvement, program compliance, and program effectiveness.

Each Service IG found their Service’s voting assistance program to be compliant with the requirements of UOCAVA and DoD Instruction 1000.04 and generally effective.

• The Army Inspector General reported that the Army voting assistance program was effective. The report stated that 26 of 30 (87 percent) commands inspected developed redundant systems to either hand‑deliver or electronically deliver the “Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request: Federal Post Card Application” to eligible voters. In addition, the Army Inspector General reported that 26 of the 30 voting assistance offices and 193 of 205 units (94 percent) voting assistance programs were compliant with DoD Instruction 1000.04 and Army Regulation 608‑20, “Army Voting Assistance Program,” regarding delivery of absentee ballot requests.

• The Naval Inspector General concluded that the Navy voting assistance program was effective. The report stated that 26 of 32 (81 percent) major commands overseeing all Navy units were compliant with DoD Instruction 1000.04 and OPNAVINST 1742.1C; 5 of 32 (16 percent) commands were partially compliant; and 1 of 32 (3 percent) commands were ineffective. The one noncompliant command is a small command, comprised of three units Navy‑wide, and the report stated that the command was standing up a voting assistance program.

• The Air Force Inspector General reported that the Air Force voting assistance program was effective. The Air Force Inspector General reported inspecting 100 percent of reportable units (156 organizations), and 15 deficiencies were reported in only 9 of the 156 organizations inspected. The Inspector General concluded that the Air Force voting assistance program complied with Federal statute and Service guidance.

• The Marine Corps Inspector General reported that the Marine Corps voting assistance program was effective. The Marine Corps Inspector General based its conclusion on the results of 152 inspections, quarterly voting reports, and measurement of performance metrics. The report states that inspectors made on‑the‑spot corrections with immediate corrective training for identified minor deficiencies. Inspected commands developed and reported corrective actions to address all moderate deficiencies. The report concluded that the voting assistance program complied with Federal statute and DoD policy.

Findings

While each Service IG found their Service’s voting assistance program to be compliant and generally effective, we also reviewed compliance with DoD Instruction 1000.04 by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Office of the Secretary of Defense receives voting assistance support from the FVAP office, whose processes and procedures generally provided eligible voters and their family members access to voting information. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness is responsible for voting support throughout the Office of the Secretary of Defense through the FVAP office. The FVAP office coordinates with the Services, election officials, eligible voters, and Congress, to ensure that Service members, their eligible family members, and overseas citizens are aware of their right to vote and have the tools and resources to successfully exercise that right. The FVAP office takes several actions to comply with DoD Instruction 1000.04.

• Service engagement – Coordination with voting assistance officers and the FVAP office, and the availability of the website, ensure that voting tools and resources, such as absentee voting forms, materials, training, and guidance, are available for eligible voters.

• Election official engagement – Engagement with state and local election officials raise awareness of their responsibilities under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), and provide them with the information and tools needed to assist voters covered by the UOCAVA.

• Direct voter assistance to eligible voters – Voting assistance officers, the FVAP.gov website, a voter call center, and a comprehensive voter assistance guide are all direct voter assistance.

• Research and evaluation – Analysis of post‑election surveys and voting assistance officer metrics identify trends and any obstacles to voting.

• Congressional reporting – Annual reports summarize post‑election survey results on the effectiveness, oversight, and compliance of FVAP efforts, and the corresponding assistance provided to eligible voters.

As a result of actions by the FVAP office, eligible voters have the information necessary to participate in the voting process. DoD organizations and leaders also have the necessary tools to ensure access to and comply with Federal law and DoD Instruction 1000.04.

However, the Joint Staff did not have a written voting policy, as required by DoD Instruction 1000.04. The absence of a written policy occurred because responsible officials on the Joint Staff believed that personnel assigned to the Joint Staff received voting assistance support from their respective Service voting assistance officers. However, we found that the voting assistance support provided by their respective Service voting assistance officers only occurs when Service members initially arrive and are on‑boarded. In addition, the Joint Staff voting assistance portfolio manager did not know who the Service voting representatives were and was unable to confirm that Service members assigned to the Joint Staff and their eligible family members had access to Federal voting information and assistance. As a result, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cannot ensure the Joint Staff meets the intent of DoD Instruction 1000.04.

 

Recommendations

We recommend that the Director of the Joint Staff develop and implement a written voting assistance policy to support Service personnel assigned to the Joint Staff and their family members, including those in deployed, dispersed, and tenant organizations.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

We did not receive comments on the draft of this report, and we needed to issue the final report in accord with a statutory deadline. Therefore, the recommendation is open and unresolved. We request that the Director of the Joint Staff provide comments in response to the final report by April 30, 2020.

 

This report is the product of Proj. No. D2020-DEV0PA-0012.00