The Pentagon news conference came after release Tuesday of a Defense Department Inspector General report that said the Pentagon is not complying with a 2009 law designed to make voting easier for troops and U.S. citizens deployed or living overseas. Allegations have arisen charging that the Obama administration is attempting to reduce voter participation by military members who tend to be conservative in their political views.
The IG said only about one half of overseas locations had functioning voter assistance offices as required by the legislation and recommended the department survey troops to better determine voting needs.
Although the Pentagon agreed with the IG recommendations, Pam Mitchell, acting director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, said Wednesday she believed voting assistance “is absolutely the best it has ever been.”
She said the program has focused on the 18 to 25-year-old demographic using internet, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.
“We have a mobile website we just unveiled last week so that using a smartphone or a tablet from anywhere you may be, you can obtain access to our information and tools,” Mitchell is quoted in a Pentagon account of the press conference.
She said e-mail blasts are used to remind troops how to register and when the vote must be cast. Mitchell also stressed that the FVAP operates a call center dispensing information five days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT.
Referencing the IG findings, she said the focus would remain on finding the most effective way to maintain assistance.
“We are absolutely committed to that,” the acting director said. “Investing in intuitive, easy-to-use Web-based tools, supplemented by well-trained unit voting assistance officers rather than unit voter assistance offices, could substantially reduce cost and improve voting assistance.”
She said the IG likely could not reach voting assistance offices because “in a military environment, things change,” citing personnel movements and joint basing as factors.