Men and women across the globe are fighting for and protecting our nation so that we may continue our way of life, including the opportunity to vote in free democratic elections. However, in 2012, the votes of those very men and women are being stifled by rules, court cases and lack of organization in very purposeful and calculated ways. In an election that is expected to be close (whether or not that will be the case is yet to be seen), these military votes could swing the race, especially in tight contests in states like Virginia and Ohio. An additional detail to be taken into account is the fact that the military vote tends to favor Republicans in the average election. With all these facts at hand, it is obvious why the suppression of these votes could be an essential piece to the survival of the incumbent.
This is not the first time. Prior to the 2010 midterm elections, over 100,000 military members overseas did not receive the absentee ballots they had requested. As we all know, 2010 was a major election, where voters turned out in droves to overthrow the incumbents and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. For that election, according to the Defense Department’s Federal Voter Assistance Program, active-duty military voters who did not receive their ballots, which had been requested on time, rose from 16% in 2008 to 29% in 2010. Nearly one-third of eligible voters, those fighting for our freedoms and sacrificing on a daily basis, were kept from voting. Are there valid reasons why certain overseas bases were not able to receive ballots? Of course. But for that number to nearly double in two years, during which a big-time turnaround election like 2010 was set to occur, raises many questions that have gone unanswered.
Back to 2012, where we are beginning to see the same pattern take shape. However, this time there are more obvious and less disguised attacks on our servicemen and women’s ability to have their vote counted. Let’s start with the pivotal state of Ohio, where the Obama campaign brought a lawsuit against a voting law favorable to the military vote. The law itself gives military personnel an additional three days to vote in person for the early voting period. For civilians, the deadline is November 2. For military members, it’s November 5. The reason behind the difference is that A) it allows a well-deserved extended opportunity to servicemen and women who have a small window to cast their ballots in person and B) extending those three days to civilians is much more costly to local governments and the process also becomes much more susceptible to voter fraud.
As an aside, early voting poses a massive and almost unstoppable opportunity for vast attempts at voter fraud and abuse. The absentee ballot option was put in place for early voting, where voters not available to vote in person on voting day can send them in ahead of time, to be counted at the proper date. Now, voting has been opened up for over a month prior to the election, with the first state (Iowa) beginning late last week. In a drive-thru, fast food world, so many people want easier access to everything. This is one item that should not have been altered. Absentee ballot laws in every state should allow for the same opportunity to deliver your vote ahead of time with a rational and valid reason behind why you will not be available on voting day. If an individual cannot provide a valid reason, then they should be available to vote on the appropriate day. We cannot open our elections to the possibility of added voter fraud, which can change the outcome of an election and determine the future of our nation through cheating. That is not how our system was envisioned and created, and it must remain as cheat-proof as possible. Early voting harms the legitimacy of the process.
Now back to the main topic.
This weekend, a new report was released that showed, as was the case in 2010, absentee ballots are not reaching the military oversees. In Virginia alone, a very low percentage of registered overseas military voters have requested absentee ballots – only 1,746 out of 126,251, according to the Military Voter Protection Project. Now look at some multi-state totals, many of which are major swing states. Including Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Alaska, Colorado and Florida, only 55,510 absentee ballots have been requested so far for the 2012 election, compared to 166,252 in 2008. These numbers represent only eight of the fifty states.
See the red flags waving wildly above these statistics? It’s hard to imagine such a drop-off based only on a lack of voter enthusiasm this election cycle. After all, they, above everyone else, know how important the Commander-in-Chief is to their roles, their protection, their funding and their lives. They do not take voting for granted like so many in our country. Something doesn’t seem quite right here, and we can’t afford to turn a blind eye.