Watchwoman on the Wall

THURSDAY, 21 JULY 2011 10:41

Those raised overseas can testify as to how comforting it is to be able to go on American military installations and eat pizza at Pizza Hut or eat a burger at Burger King. While the Pentagon has certainly done a good job taking care of its troops’ gastronomical needs, many feel it has done a very poor job of taking care of their fundamental right to vote.

According to a new report, fewer soldiers and their dependents cast absentee ballots in the 2010 midterm congressional elections, despite attempts by the legislature to alleviate some of the difficulty associated with the process. There is some evidence that the assist from Congress is being blocked by the inept implementation of the applicable laws by the Obama administration.

Because of the disturbingly low voter turnout among service members, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowering Act (MOVE) in 2009. The authors of the MOVE act intended to remove obstacles to exercising the right of suffrage by requiring that absentee ballots be mailed to the foreign outposts at least 45 days prior to election day and that every military post overseas have a voter registration office to assist military men and women with conforming with voting requirements.

Reports from overseas, however, indicate that not only has MOVE not improved voter turnout rates, but fewer and fewer eligible members of the armed forces and their families are taking advantage of the new streamlined process. Relevant evidence points the finger of blame at a less-than-enthusiastic effort by the Departments of Justice and Defense to make the MOVE provisions a priority.

The disquieting data revealing this trend is published in a report written by the Military Voter Protection Project and Chapman University’s AMVET’s clinic. In short, the information illustrates that MOVE has had no positive impact on the absentee voting participation rate among members of the uniformed services.

Specifically, the data collected by congressional mandate reveal that “4.6 percent of military voters cast an absentee ballot that counted. In 2006, it was 5.5 percent.” As one story described the situation, “These numbers came despite the MOVE mandate of a voter registration office on every military installation before the November 2010 election.”

Who is to blame for this seemingly inexplicable decline? One culprit is the Pentagon. The report notes that despite the MOVE mandate regarding registration offices,

Defense Department political appointees waited until three weeks after the 2010 election to issue the order to establish the offices. Now six months before the start of presidential primaries, a quarter of military installations remain noncompliant with the legal obligation to have functioning voter registration offices.

Additionally, there seems to be a prevalent climate of disregard throughout the entire Obama administration.

According to Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a prominent co-sponsor of the MOVE legislation, the Justice Department must significantly improve its enforcement efforts of the requirements of the MOVE act, especially in regard to the portion of the law that requires states to provide absentee ballots to military service members and their families 45 days before elections.

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