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Our Troops Deserve the Right to Vote

It’s time for our government do right by our men and women in uniform. Our troops put their lives on the line to protect all of our rights, including our right to vote, but untold thousands of them were unable to cast their own ballots this year.
Veterans groups and advocates have warned about this disenfranchisement for years. Eric Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project and a former litigation attorney in the Voting Section of the US Department of Justice, reported that “more than 17,000 military and overseas voters were disenfranchised in 2008 because their ballots arrived after the deadline and had to be rejected.”
Then there are the thousands more whose ballots never arrived or arrived too close to the election to be returned. The total number of troops affected this year is likely well more than double that because of the relocation of nearly 70,000 military personnel out of Iraq and Afghanistan over the past year.
Worse, the feds acknowledged last week that a transport plane that crashed at Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan on Oct. 19 was carrying 4,700 pounds of mail — including an unknown number of, yes, absentee ballots.
Experts agree that a minimum 45-day mailing standard is needed to provide soldiers overseas sufficient time to get their ballots home. But our government has done virtually nothing to ensure that non-complying states comply with military voter protection statutes. In fact, the Obama administration actively worked against pro-troop voting protection efforts by suing to stop Ohio’s military enfranchisement reforms—though they denied that was the purpose of the suit.
Moreover, according to a report by the Military Voter Protection Project recently released, the number of absentee ballot requests by both military members and other overseas voters in the battleground states of Virginia and Ohio dropped 70% since 2008. Despite a federal law mandating that every base establish a voting assistance office, the Pentagon reported this summer that it could only contact such offices on half of our military’s bases. In Wisconsin alone this election cycle, at least 30 municipalities failed to send absentee ballots to members of the military before the 45-day election deadline.
Recently several US Senators raised this issue with Defense Secretary Panetta. The group noted that the DoD’s Military Postal Service Agency had documented widespread problems experienced by overseas military voters during the last midterm elections, but the department had taken no steps to make mail changes recommended in 2010. This is absolutely outrageous! How can this happen?
The most simple, efficient fix involves a centralized mail forwarding system for blank absentee ballots to accommodate transient servicemen and servicewomen. Our Postal System already has a similar system in place for civilian use. It’s time for we the people to demand that our federal government absolutely guarantee our troops the right for their votes to be received and to count. Please contact your Congress-Critters now.

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Further reading

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