What’s Going On Here?

US military members tend strongly to vote Republican.  Yet in election swing states, absentee ballot requests are shockingly low.  There are a couple of possibilities for why this is so: on the one hand, our soldiers and spouses, and those who support them, don’t care enough about voting in this year’s elections to request their ballots.  This is hard to credit.

On the other hand, they’re not getting the information they need to get their ballots so they can vote.  We know some things about this.  For instance, we know that the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not in the chain of command for our soldiers, but it is charged with providing the command chain with training, equipage, and support for the commanders’ soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

We also know that the Chairman of the JCS, General Martin Dempsey, is too busy hectoring ex-military and civilians for exercising their free speech rights to have any time left providing that support—which, among other matters, includes making it possible for our soldiers and spouses, and those who support them, to vote absentee.

Here’s how well he’s doing on soldiers’ absentee voting, and how will others specifically charged with the task are doing.  This table, taken from the Military Voter Protection Project‘s report, shows how far the numbers of requested absentee ballots have fallen from the numbers in 2008 (the complete report is available at the MVP Project link).


Total Requested
in 2008

in 2012










North Carolina
























We also know some other things about this shameful failure.  DoD spokeswoman Cmdr Leslie Hull-Ryde is insisting that 2012 is much different than 2008: the 2008 elections had contested primaries for both major parties, but this time only Republicans had a contested primary.  That’s their excuse, apparently: there must be primaries by both parties, else the Pentagon is relieved of its duty.  Hull-Ryde added, proudly,

We are in complete compliance with the law.  (The Federal Voting Assistance Program) strives to ensure that every absent military and overseas citizen voter has the tools and resources to receive, cast and return an absentee ballot and have it counted—regardless of who they vote for.

When I was on active duty in the USAF, such “meets standards” performance, noted on an Officer Efficiency Report or an Airman Proficiency Report, was the kiss of death to a career.  We were expected to do better than that.  Moreover, DoD was authorized $75 million for last year and this to set up the mechanisms—including those voting assistance offices—for getting this voting information to its service members.  Yet it has chosen not to, to any great extent, despite the fact that the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act requires them to.

Pam Mitchell, acting director of the FVAP, compounds the matter, bragging that there are over 220 voting assistance offices seat up worldwide, and claiming with a straight face,

I strongly believe that voting assistance is the best that it has ever been.

Never mind that she has a vested interest in downplaying this failure.  Never mind that the 220 offices of which she’s so proud is a trifling number compared to the thousands of locations around the world at which we have soldiers and spouses, and those who support them—or just soldiers and their support—stationed.  It seems the FVAP isn’t striving very hard.

Despite the Pentagon’s decision to fail [sic] on this, soldiers and spouses, and those who support them, can request absentee ballots at the MVP Project link above and at  the Heroes Vote Initiative Web site, http://heroesvote.org.

One more thing: think the military vote is too trivial to matter?  Aside from the utter immorality of depriving these men and women who are willing to sacrifice everything in order to protect us and our freedoms—including our right to vote—of their right to vote, think about the numbers involved.  Compare the present reduction in military votes cast (again, a segment of our population that tends strongly to vote Republican) with the closeness of past Presidential elections in Florida and other swing states, the 2008 Senatorial election in Minnesota, the gubernatorial elections in Washington, and so on.

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