Some of the active-duty military don't vote simply because they have been deployed for a lengthy period of time during which they could have voted had they been out of the line of fire. But that's a small number. Others fail to vote, or miss voting, because of the same kinds of events which cause civilians in the United States to forget to go to the polls. Again, those numbers are small. The largest number of “missed” votes grows out of the internally-conflicting state laws and federal rules regarding absentee ballots for our military serving overseas. Much of it can be chalked up to human error, much more cannot.
In 2010, the Military Voter Protection Project calculated that in 2008, only 20% of the active duty military cast absentee ballots. In 2010, the number had dropped to 5%. The Project concluded that there was something much deeper than apathy or clumsy voting rules involved in such low figures. Common sense alone says that the very people who daily defend our right to vote and live in a free republic simply can't be that uninterested in who their representatives will be.
In 2009, Congress also recognized that something was rotten, and passed legislation to assist active duty military serving overseas to know their voting rights, and assist them in exercising those rights. It was called the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. Our military-loving president signed the legislation into law. The main provision of the law is to set up installation voting assistance offices (IVAOs). Their sole purpose is to recognize that the military personnel have far more problems knowing where they will be at any given time, particularly during the election cycle, than the average civilian at home. They are charged with following up on new and sudden deployments so that the serving military man or woman won't get lost in the shuffle and lose his or her ability to vote.
So where does the Obama administration and the Holder Justice Department fit into this plan? Mostly, they don't. It's up to them to implement the plan and protect our military's right to vote. When states began passing voter ID law, the Holder Justice Department devoted a substantial part of its legal efforts to attempting to void the voter ID laws. Six people who are too stupid or too lazy to obtain a valid state voter ID might have their votes “suppressed,” so it was time to employ the awesome forces of the federal government to prevent such a disaster. When arm-twisting didn't work, Holder started filing lawsuits at an astounding rate of speed.
Meanwhile, back on the military posts in Afghanistan and Iraq (and throughout the rest of the world), the quick-as-a-rabbit Holder Justice Department suddenly developed a strange and exotic case of the slows. It's a contagious disease, and has been passed on to the Department of Defense and the Obama White House. With the money already approved and set aside for implementation of the assistance offices, and “hot spots” identified, fewer than half of the assistance offices have been activated since 2009.
One of the major functions of the IVAOs is to instruct service members on the complexities and vastly differing rules for absentee voting from state to state. But the administration decided it had a better way. Rather than put all those people to useful work serving the people by increasing military voter participation, the government set up a website instead. If you've ever tried to get answers to your specific questions from a website, you've probably been jerked around through twelve different links, including useless FAQs.
The website of the Federal Voter Assistance Program is no different. Say, for instance, you are a soldier recently deployed to Afghanistan from your home in Wisconsin. After circling around within the site to find a simple answer, you suddenly come upon the answer. Miracle of miracles. You have until November 16 for your vote to be counted. The problem is that under Wisconsin law, all overseas military absentee ballots must be received by November 9. One military officer discovered the error, and after battling with the webmasters, got the figure corrected. The question is, how many military personnel have already retrieved the incorrect information, and will simply vote too late for it to count?
Properly implemented, the program would have an advocate at every overseas military base of any importance to physically contact the soldiers, give them the correct rules, and tell them to ignore the website. A physical human body talking directly to our military personnel, charged with guaranteeing that each soldier has the right information makes a lot more sense than a website that the military men and women may or may not have consulted. Human beings are always more motivated by a plea from a fellow human being than by dry, technical, and occasionally incorrect information provided on a website.
On September 13, appearing before a Congressional subcommittee, the acting director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, Pam Mitchell said: “I strongly believe that voting-assistance is the best that it has ever been.” I suspect that if she were over in the State Department, she'd be one of those still claiming that the riots and murders in the Middle East were spontaneous and caused by a video trailer that nobody has actually seen. “Baghdad Bob” syndrome seems to permeate the entire Obama administration.
I'm sure the New Black Panthers will be out in force to make sure no ineligible white person attempts to vote. But who is going to be there for the men and women of the military who are denied their vote, if only by gross negligence?