US Should Be Expanding Military Voters' Rights
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    US Should Be Expanding Military Voters' Rights

    Pete Hegseth | August 14, 2012


    In the fall of 2004, while serving as a platoon leader in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I was my company's Voter Assistance Officer. We had infantrymen from multiple states, and it was my job to ensure all 130 of them cast an absentee ballot. It took months to ensure everyone voted, maneuvering complex state-laws and re-requesting lost ballots.

    We were fortunate in Cuba nobody was shooting at us; so I could afford to take the time. I can only imagine how difficult my job would have been in Iraq or Afghanistan. Frankly, considering the obstacles, I'd be surprised if warfighters on the front lines have the time, or patience, to cast a ballot.

    These difficulties are an all-to-familiar story. According to the Military Voters Protection Project (MVPP), military voters have faced "a history of disenfranchisement" in which they have seen their voting rights blocked. While our nation has made efforts to ease the way for military personnel to exercise this fundamental right, we still have a long way to go until military voters are treated equitably.

    That's why the recent dispute over extended early voting provisions for service members in Ohio, which sparked a lawsuit, is alarming to veterans. It represents a terrible precedent that fails to recognize the unusual obstacles military voters face, and could erode recent gains in military voting access.

    Here's the background: Policymakers in Ohio, recognizing the difficulties many military personnel face in voting, extended the early voting period for service members by three days. This policy is one reason the MVPP named the Buckeye State one its 15 "All-Star States" nary-efforts-to-protect-military-voters/> for promoting and protecting military voting rights.

    But in a heated election year‹in which Ohio is a swing state in a bitterly contested presidential conflict‹it couldn't be that simple. Last month, the Obama for America campaign, in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party of Ohio, brought suit against the state. Their contention: offering extended early voting opportunities for military personnel is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

    In response, 15 veterans' organizations‹all non-partisan groups with a shared dedication to protecting the right of service members to vote‹entered the fray, arguing that the lawsuit will create a terrible precedent that will undermine the rights of members of the military.

    Unfortunately, this dispute has become bitterly politicized, which obscures the real question, which is this: what do we owe the warfighters who defend our nation around the world, given the extreme sacrifices they make on our behalf?

    What's at stake here is not "special" treatment for military personnel so much as a respectful recognition of the heavy burden our government places upon them in service to our nation.

    Providing military personnel, who are often serving overseas and far from home, with a reasonable amount of flexibility in voting is proper. We extend this flexibility to military personnel in other realms. For example, military personnel are frequently granted automatic extensions for filing their tax returns, and men and women serving in combat zones often face no federal tax liability on all or part of their incomes.

    The lawsuit contends that extended voting for service members, without including civilians, is "arbitrary and without justification." This claim doesn't pass the smell test, and is painfully out-of-touch.

    Service members and their families face unique and often extraordinary barriers to voting‹barriers far greater than the relatively minor inconveniences civilian voters might encounter. The Ohio provisions that enable them to exercise their vote‹just like other measures taken to reduce barriers to voting in the past‹are recognition of that fact.

    This is why veterans everywhere are rightly incensed by the suggestion that provisions aimed at overcoming unusual barriers to voting are some kind of "preferential treatment." Instead, those provisions are a remedy for perpetual injustices. (It's also important to emphasize that the Ohio law doesn't even touch on the difficulties military personnel undergo in casting an absentee ballot, another obstacle that should be a national outrage.)

    To argue that members of the military and their families don't deserve flexibility in voting is to illustrate how truly out of touch our political class is from the concerns of military personnel, and rank-and-file Americans writ-large. It's yet another example of the Washington gamesmanship that has gotten our country into a fiscal nightmare‹with out-of-control spending, escalating debt and a stagnating economy staring us in the face, and threatening the very liberties our service members fight to protect.

    If Washington politicians don't Œget it' on something as simple as military voting, why should anyone be surprised that our leaders have been unable to tackle the far more complex, and fundamental, issues facing the nation we fought for?

    Enough with the political games. Our leaders should be working to expand, rather than curtail, voting opportunities for our troops. Maybe then they'll finally get to work on preserving the freedom's here at home, that we fought for overseas.

  2. #2
    Marine Free Member AAV Crewchief's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    God's Country, Northwest Florida
    Obama is willing to let Kenyans vote though...and dead people too.

  3. #3
    that is true,, but the people who are in the middle of a battle field, he don't want them to be able to vote,,

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