Texas lawmakers try to make military voting easier - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Texas lawmakers try to make military voting easier

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AUSTIN, Texas — State Rep. Van Taylor knows firsthand how hard it is to vote while on active military duty — he led a 28-person platoon in 2003 as a Marine captain during the war in Iraq.

The freshman legislator from Plano has joined state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio to work on a plan to make it easier for Texans in the military to cast ballots, making good on a 2010 campaign promise. The military voting proposal is the first bill he filed.

Texas must comply with the 2009 Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act. The law, known as MOVE, requires states to provide ballots to military personnel at least 45 days before an election, the San Antonio Express-News reported Monday.

To facilitate this, Texas will need to change March primary and runoff dates, Taylor said. He would prefer to move the primary election to April. March elections conflict with spring break, he said.

"You are so far from Texas, and there just isn't that much time. The real issue here is the amount of time to request, receive and return a ballot by mail," Taylor said. "It makes it virtually impossible for the active men and women serving overseas and oftentimes even inside the United States to actually be able to vote."

Van de Putte said elections as late as June or July would conflict with summer vacations and might force election officials to find polling places other than schools.

The runoff election campaign will significantly expand the current campaign time between elections.

"Candidates are not going to like that, but the goal is to make sure that our military voters are not disenfranchised," Van de Putte said.

Linda Green, installation voting assistance officer at Fort Sam Houston, said deployed troops have had problems voting by mail because ballots didn't reach them on time or get returned soon enough to be counted. The Defense Department does an excellent job providing resources to help with voting, including the assignment of a voting assistance officer to each unit, according to Green.

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com