The Senate Rules Committee passed the bipartisan Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements Act (The SENTRI Act) authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). The bill, passed unanimously by the Rule Committee, now moves forward to the full Senate for a floor vote, if Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will schedule it.
The SENTRI Act seeks to end the disenfranchisement of military voters and their families by streamlining the absentee voting process for them. It would require annual training from the Department of Defense (DOD) to all of its military members and to provide voter assistance. It will require states to protect the voting rights of service members and their family members by sending out the absentee ballots forty-six days in advance of Election Day.
Sen. Cornyn told Breitbart Texas today, “These Americans make tremendous sacrifices in the defense of our nation, and those sacrifices should not include giving up their most basic rights as citizens. There should be no delay in acting to safeguard our soldiers’ voting rights, and I hope the Majority Leader agrees.”
“The 2012 election made clear that there are still too many barriers to military service members and their families having their votes counted,” Sen. Cornyn continued. “These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and the least we can do is ensure that everything possible is being done to safeguard their voting rights.”
Sen. Cornyn worked with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in developing the bill.
“Our legislation makes important improvements and adjustments to military voting assistance protocols to ensure that all of our soldiers, even those serving at remote outposts around the globe, can participate in the democracy they fight to protect,” Sen. Schumer said. “I’m hopeful it will gain wide bipartisan support and pass the Senate this year.”
The following background on the bill was provided to Breitbart Texas by Sen. Cornyn’s office:
The legislation would take two critical steps in order to ensure that states send out absentee ballots to troops and their family members at least 45 days before Election Day, as mandated in the MOVE Act.
First the states would be required, both before and after the 45-day mark to report on their compliance in sending out ballots on time. In the event that a state misses the pre-election deadline, that state would be required to express-mail the ballots out to troops and, in extreme cases, provide for the troops to express-mail the ballots back after they have been marked.
Second, the senators’ bill would repeal the MOVE Act provision that permitted states to seek waivers from the 45-day pre-election requirement for sending out ballots to troops and their family members. Three years after passage of the MOVE Act, the hardship waiver provision is no longer needed.
The SENTRI Act also requires the Department of Defense to reform its on-base voter assistance program to ensure that troops and their families receive the same level of voting assistance under the National Voter Registration Act that their civilian counterparts receive at locations such as state DMV offices.
The MOVE Act addressed several of the flaws responsible for such widespread disenfranchisement. Among other provisions, it requires that all states provide military voters with ballots no later than 45 days prior to the election, so that they have adequate time to complete and return them. The bill also required states to provide ballots electronically. Additionally, it enhanced the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) at the Department of Defense, which is the main source of election-related information and assistance for many members of the military.
The bill and the protections offered to our military serving across this nation and around the world rests in the hands of Majority Leader Reid.
Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceeBBTX