Fox News has harped on a waiver provision in noncontroversial legislation protecting military and overseas voters in order to suggest that the Obama administration would use that waiver process as a "political move" to help Democrats win elections, citing concerns among "some Democratic strategists" about the November midterm elections -- specifically pointing to Senate races in Colorado and Wisconsin:
Today, that story completely collapsed as the Defense Department denied the waiver requests of four states, including Wisconsin and Colorado.
On August 9, Fox News host Megyn Kelly claimed that the Justice Department was "not enforcing the law that protects the voting rights of military men and women serving overseas." Kelly's report parroted a discredited, 11-day-old accusation made by Republican activists.
As Media Matters noted when those allegations first surfaced, the law Kelly claimed the DOJ was "not enforcing," the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, actually contained the very provision by which states sought waivers from the need to mail absentee ballots at least 45 days before Election Day. The bill, complete with the waiver process, garnered bipartisan support and was championed by Republican Senators when it was enacted last year.
Further undermining the Fox-hyped story, Republican election officials in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii were among those seeking waivers under the law. In a statement to Media Matters, Shane Hamlin, Assistant Director of Elections for Washington State, explained the state's waiver request:
In October 2009, Congress passed new legislation called the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (the MOVE Act). Congress assumed that, in order to comply with the long-standing recommendation of a 45 day transit period, states must mail the ballots to military and overseas voters 45 days before Election Day. Consequently, Congress mandated in the MOVE Act that states mail ballots to military and overseas voters 45 days before Election Day. This timeframe does not comply with Washington's statutory deadlines for candidate filing, printing ballots, mailing and receiving ballots, or certifying the Primary or General Elections. For example, state law establishes that the Secretary of State's Office will certify the results of the Primary on Tuesday, September 7. The MOVE Act's 45 day deadline is Saturday, September 18, 2010. Eight business days is not enough time to reformat, print and distribute 55,000 - 65,000 ballot packets for military and overseas voters. Keep in mind that each of the 6,600 precincts in the state has a different ballot.
The MOVE Act allows states to apply for a waiver from the 45-day requirement if the state can accommodate the military and overseas voters in other ways. Because Washington does provide the same amount of time for the ballots to be sent and received, but simply provides it on an altered schedule, Washington has applied for a waiver from this very specific requirement. Washington is still providing the benefits that the MOVE Act envisions, and is even exceeding those expectations by providing 51 days of transit time for the General Election.
Washington was among the states whose waiver requests were granted.