The next president of the United States must do right by our men and women in uniform. Our troops put their lives on the line to protect our right to vote, but untold thousands of them were unable to cast their own ballots on Tuesday. For shame.
Veterans groups and soldiers advocates have warned about military disenfranchisement for years. M. Eric Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project and a former litigation attorney in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, reported that "more than 17,000 military and overseas voters were disenfranchised in 2008 because their ballots arrived after the deadline and had to be rejected."
That doesn't include the thousands more whose ballots never arrived or arrived at their bases too close to the election to be returned. The total number of troops affected this year could be more than double or triple that because of the relocation of nearly 70,000 military personnel out of Iraq and Afghanistan over the past year.
More alarming, the feds acknowledged last week that a transport plane that crashed at Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan on Oct. 19 was carrying 4,700 pounds of mail -- including an unknown number of absentee ballots.
Experts agree that a minimum 45-day mailing standard is needed to provide soldiers overseas sufficient time to get their ballots home. But the feds have done virtually nothing to ensure that laggard states comply with military voter protection statutes. In fact, the Obama administration has actively worked against pro-troop voting protection efforts by suing to stop Ohio's military enfranchisement reforms.
Moreover, according to a report by the Military Voter Protection Project released on Election Eve, the number of absentee ballot requests by both military members and other overseas voters in the battleground states of Virginia and Ohio has dropped 70 percent since 2008. Despite a federal law mandating that every base establish a voting assistance office (the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act), the Pentagon reported this summer that it could only contact such offices on half of the military's bases. In Wisconsin alone this election cycle, at least 30 municipalities failed to send absentee ballots to members of the military before the 45-day election deadline.