The Canvass: States and Election Reform

A Newsletter for Legislatures

This article appeared in the August 2008 issue of The Canvass.

(Full Newsletter in PDF)  (Engaging State Legislatures in Election Reform Homepage)

Uniform Law Commission to study feasibility of model law for military and overseas voters

At its summer meeting in Big Sky, Montana, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) approved a proposal from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Make Voting Work initiative to study whether and how a uniform law could be developed for military and overseas voters.  A study committee established by the ULC will consider the feasibility of drafting and enacting legislation with consistent timelines, requirements, and standards for registration, absentee ballot distribution and ballot voting for military and overseas voters covered under the federal Uniformed Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

At present, the estimated six million overseas and uniformed services voters must navigate a complicated patchwork of state and local regulations that often delay receipt and processing of both their registration forms and absentee ballots. The current federal instruction manual to help these voters is 460 pages long, and outmoded systems employed by election offices and sluggish domestic and international mail services also hamper overseas voters trying to cast their ballots in an effective and timely manner.  While individual states have adopted a range of improvements, the lack of consistency presents one of the greatest challenges to military and overseas citizens attempting to navigate the system in order to cast their vote and have it counted.  Pew’s proposal to develop uniform laws in this arena is part of its larger initiative, Make Voting Work, which is committed to ensuring that the election system achieves the optimal level of convenience, security and efficiency possible for all voters, at home and abroad, including those that we ask to put their lives on the line to defend America and emerging democracies around the globe.

The ULC is trusted by state policymakers across the political spectrum and has a long track record of success.  It developed the Uniform Commercial Code, which is widely hailed as an example of states working together, without federal action, to implement uniform laws for the improvement of commerce and civil law.

If you have questions about Pew’s efforts to develop consistent laws for military and overseas voters, contact Carolynn Race, Senior Associate at Pew’s Make Voting Work initiative at




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