Military voting is predicted to set record-lows on Election Day.
Given that military families make unthinkable sacrifices daily on behalf of their beloved country, it is heartbreaking and dually frustrating that your voices will go unheard on November 6. As an Army wife whose husband served as a Military Police officer for twenty-three years, I know first-hand the challenges you as military families face and the courage it takes to face them. When my husband was stationed in Germany, it was hard to leave friends and loved ones to move 4,000 miles oversees to all things new and unfamiliar. And when my husband served a short tour in South Korea, I managed the home front as a “single” mom caring for my two little girls, worrying constantly over my husband’s safety.
I’ve been there and, no, it was not easy, but it was a duty our family took seriously and fulfilled proudly. And voting is a civic duty just as important.
That’s why it is heartbreaking to hear the report from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) that military absentee ballot requests in Virginia have dropped over 90 percent, and the other eight battleground states have seen military voter ballot requests fall by over 50 percent since 2008.
The painful truth is that half of all military installations across the globe lack proper voting facilities as reported by the Inspector General’s Office (IG). What is most disappointing is that these voting stations are required by law under the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act to serve military families and ensure your right to register to vote and fill out an absentee ballot.
The IG claims the mandate for military voting offices has never come to fruition because the allotted $20 million in annual funding for the project has yet to be granted. Taking issue with this assertion, Eric Eversole, Founder and Executive Director of the Military Voter Protection Project, explains, “In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, FVAP [Federal Voter Assistant Programs] received a combined $75 million in federal appropriations. To put this into perspective, they received $17.4 million for fiscal year 2010.”
Still undetermined is to where the $75 million in FVAP appropriations has disappeared. But we can be sure this administrative oversight will result in skewed general election outcomes. In a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as quoted in the Washington Times, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) decried the DOD’s clear violation of federal law, predicting, “The price of the [department’s] failure to follow the law will likely be paid this November by military service members and their families.”
America needs an administration that is going to respect and support our troops. Just as every civilian is guaranteed the right to vote in a democratic election without any undue burdens, so too should our national leaders ensure our military members have the opportunity to vote safely – in a non-violent, non-lethal environment – anywhere in the world they might find themselves stationed. After all, they are the men and women responsible for protecting our right to vote, and should thus be protected when they vote.
America’s security and very existence are being compromised as the military are disenfranchised. You see on a daily basis the ramifications of foreign policy decisions in the country in which you are stationed, and you know how domestic policies directly impact your family back home. Your vote is your voice, and America needs desperately to hear what you have to say.
America depends on you and appreciates your patriotism, bravery and selfless service. Because of you, Americans can peacefully assemble to praise God, pursue happiness and democratically determine the destiny of this great nation. So please, from one military family to another, be sure to vote by absentee ballot this November and let America hear your voice. As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated so eloquently in a videotaped message over Columbus Day weekend, “You have more than earned the right to vote.”
Kenda Bartlett is the Executive Director of Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.