When Election Day arrives in November hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be serving far from home on the “Frontlines of Freedom.” Many of those serving our nation in uniform will have gone through the complicated process of registering to vote from overseas, navigated the confusing and time consuming twists and turns necessary to obtain an absentee ballot, and then gone the extra mile to mail that ballot back to their home state.
Unfortunately, the time process for those absentee ballots making it from where our soldiers are serving to where the ballots get counted will result in the vast majority of those military ballots being disqualified.
A recent survey by the Election Assistance Commission revealed that of almost 1 million ballots requested in the last election by overseas and military voters, only about one third were successfully cast and counted. Most of the votes that were disqualified were stricken because the requested ballots sent to prospective military voters were returned as “undeliverable” or because the marked ballots were received by the local election commissions too late for them to be counted.
In some states, the time period during which absentee ballots may be mailed and the deadline for their return is too short for military personnel serving overseas to have any chance for their votes to count as long as they have to rely upon the U.S. Postal Service.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has introduced the Military Voting Protection Act, HR 5673, which would require the Pentagon to collect absentee ballots overseas and deliver them stateside by express air transport. This could shorten the delivery time for overseas ballots from three weeks to only four days. More importantly, it would mean that thousands of military ballots rejected in 2004 would be able to count in 2008.
The National Association of Secretaries of State, composed of both Democrat and Republican Secretaries of State from across the United States, has endorsed the Military Voting Protection Act. Nevertheless, House and Senate Democratic Party leaders are blocking the Act from moving to a vote. Although Democrats regularly claim to “support the troops” that support obviously does not include allowing our troops to actually participate in a full and fair way in our elections!
In fact, Democrat leaders have sometimes gone to rather extraordinary lengths to disenfranchise military voters. In 2004 Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell was the architect of extensive get out the vote efforts in Pennsylvania prisons while refusing to intercede on behalf of soldiers serving in Iraq who could not get their ballots in a timely manner. In his book At Any Cost reporter Bill Sammon detailed the tactics that Al Gore’s team of lawyers used in 2000 to prevent the votes of U.S. military personnel being counted in Florida.
There are currently 41 co-sponsors of the Military Voting Protection Act. Only one Democrat, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, has signed on. Only one Tennessee member of Congress has joined the effort as a co-sponsor, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. The rest of the Tennessee congressional delegation has some explaining to do, starting with why they would possibly oppose this legislation?
If action is not taken immediately to guarantee that the voices of those serving us in uniform will be heard in November, then those of us who do have the right and the ability to cast votes that will actually be counted in November should step up and remove those from Congress who only talk the talk when it comes to supporting our troops!
Steve Gill is a state-wide Tennessee talk radio host and political analyst for Nashville’s WKRN News 2. His website is www.gillreport.com.