Although a majority of members of the US military –an estimated two-thirds — will need to vote by absentee ballot for the upcoming November election, an alarmingly small percentage of military voters are requesting absentee ballots.
This is attributed to service members not getting the same voter-assistance and access that civilians receive through motor-vehicle offices and social-service agencies.
Below are excerpts from Kenric Ward’s article, “VA: Military absentee ballots going AWOL in 2012,” VirginiaWatchdog.org, September 6, 2012:
A 92% drop in absentee-ballot requests by military personnel in Virginia is raising concerns that the Pentagon is failing to carry out a federal voting law.
With only 1,746 military voters in Virginia requesting absentee ballots so far this year — out of 126,251 service members in the state —the Military Voter Protection Project says the system has broken down.
And it’s not just in the Old Dominion. MVPP Executive Director Eric Eversole reports significant declines in absentee-ballot requests by service members across the nation.
Compiling data from Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada, Eversole’s organization found that military families have requested 55,510 absentee ballots so far this year. That’s a sharp decline from the 166,252 sought in those states in 2008.
The dropoff is ironic, considering that Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) in 2009 to help highly transient military voters obtain absentee ballots wherever they are stationed. [...]
Eversole acknowledged that personal responsibility figures into the equation, but he said service members aren’t getting the same voter-assistance and access that civilians receive through motor-vehicle offices and social-service agencies.
“We’re not seeing the same level of emphasis [on military voting] that we saw four years ago,” Eversole told Virginia Watchdog.
The former Navy JAG Corps officer blames “the federal bureaucracy and a little bit of stubbornness by the Department of Defense. The buck stops at the Federal Voting Assistance Program.”
FVAP’s director, who reports to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, left at the end of May, and the agency leadership has been in transition. [...]
[Eversole] cited Air Force statistics from the second quarter of 2011 showing that the branch provided voter service at only seven of its 22 installations voting assistance offices. In the third quarter, the Air Force said only five service members received assistance from the offices.
“The Air Force is not alone,” Eversole said. “All of the branches provided very little voter-registration assistance.” [...]
Call me a cynic, but I believe the federal government, i.e., the Department of Defense, hasn’t done what they’re supposed to in helping service members vote because the POS in the White House knows full well he doesn’t have support in the ranks, judging by a recent study showing that military veterans support Romney by double digits.