Bipartisan Senate bill aims to help troops vote

The Safeguarding Elections for our Nation’s Troops through Reforms and Improvements (SENTRI) Act would expand access to voting for military members by streamlining the process and ensuring that errors or delays in ballot distribution are corrected in time for service members and civilians living overseas to vote.

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The bill would require states to send out absentee ballots to troops and their family members at least 45 days before Election Day. If states missed that deadline, they would be required to express-mail the ballots to troops. 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.

“For far too long in this country, we have failed to adequately protect the right of our troops and their families to participate in our democratic process,” Cornyn said. “These brave Americans put their lives on the line for our democracy, so the least Congress can do is ensure that both the Defense Department and the states do everything possible to safeguard their voting rights.”

The senators plan to introduce the bill when the Senate returns from a weeklong recess next week.

Schumer said he hopes the bill passes in the Senate this year, possibly as an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.