The debate rages across the country every electoral year about voter disenfranchisement. It’s talked about on the 24-hour news channels and tweeted about by pundits. The most interesting thing is what’s not discussed is the biggest disenfranchised voter in the US: the military member.
The military has put in several initiatives to try and combat the issue. It’s been proven to be a very hard hill to climb. A big reason is because service members come from all 50 states and US territories. Each of those areas decide their own laws for voter eligibility, registration, filing, and other election rules. So the military needs to have in place over 50 different solutions for military absentee voting. This year, due to CovID, there’s been a push for wide use of absentee ballots. States have created extensions for the timeframe to receive them if postmarked by Election Day. For military members, this could help ballots get counted that in past years have not. Military members send their ballots in from all over the globe; this year it even included a NASA ballot submitted from the International Space Station.
In spite of this push, there have already been examples of voter fraud. In Pennsylvania, a presumed presidential swing state, military ballots were found discarded. This instance is currently being investigated by the FBI, but it rings true with stories heard for decades about military votes being discarded immediately in the trash can. There’s also been instances where people are being given military absentee ballots who are not military nor eligible for a military absentee ballot.
Under US law, military members and their spouses are protected under the Federal Voting Assistance Program. It’s designed to help them register, request a ballot, and track their ballot. Despite this help, the FVAP still recommends that ballot requests are sent 45 days before the election to ensure it’s counted. This is not a joke. 45 days! Many military members don’t know where they will be next week, let alone for the next 45 days.
Compare this to many states not only have same day registration but absentee ballot requests up to the day of election. Hopefully these new moves mean military ballots will be given a priority to be sent, received, and counted. Some solutions are simple. For instance, sending all military absentee ballots via Registered Mail.
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Michael Arthur is a writer and "Veteran Nation" show host for NRN. He's an Afghanistan Veteran and Marine Corps enlisted-to-officer mustang. After leaving active duty 2015, Arthur has remained active in several veterans organizations in his local community.