Out­rage: Dis­en­fran­chis­ing U.S. troops

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

The 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 Nov. 6. 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 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.

On Nov. 5, GOP Sens. John Cornyn, Kelly Ay­otte, John McCain, Rob Port­man and Marco Ru­bio raised the is­sue with Pres­i­dent Obama’s De­fense Sec­re­tary Leon Panetta. The group noted that the DoD’s Mil­i­tary Postal Ser­vice Agency (MPSA) had doc­u­mented wide­spread prob­lems ex­pe­ri­enced by over­seas mil­i­tary vot­ers dur­ing the last midterm elec­tions, but that the depart­ment had taken no steps to make mail stream­lin­ing and mod­ern­iza­tion changes rec­om­mended in 2010.

The most sim­ple, ef­fi­cient fix in­volves a cen­tral­ized mail for­ward­ing sys­tem for blank ab­sen­tee bal­lots to ac­com­mo­date tran­sient ser­vice­men and ser­vice­women. The U.S. Postal Sys­tem al­ready has a sim­i­lar sys­tem in place for civil­ian use.

“We are per­plexed as to why DoD did not do ev­ery­thing in its power to mod­ern­ize the sys­tem for redi­rect­ing blank bal­lots in or­der to elim­i­nate this road­block for mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers,” the sen­a­tors told Panetta. Per­plexed? Try steamed. Out­raged. Livid. “Our men and women in uni­form should be able to par­tic­i­pate in the very same demo­cratic sys­tem of gov­ern­ment that they de­fend, not be rel­e­gated to mere spec­ta­tor sta­tus be­cause their bal­lot never reached them.”

The prof­li­gate Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion — which squan­dered tril­lions of tax­payer dol­lars on a failed stim­u­lus law, bil­lions on dozens of now­bankrupt green boon­dog­gles, bil­lions to the Mus­lim Brother­hood-cod­dling gov­ern­ment of Egypt, and mul­ti­mil­lions on the first lady’s jun­kets in Spain and around the world — has the au­dac­ity to blame fund­ing woes for its ne­glect of mil­i­tary en­fran­chise­ment re­form. A White House less fo­cused on re­venge and re­dis­tri­bu­tion would put the rights of those who se­cure our bless­ings of lib­erty first. They de­serve noth­ing less. Michelle Malkin is the au­thor of “Cul­ture of Cor­rup­tion: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” (Reg­n­ery 2010).

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