Military Voting

Virginia argues that they don't need to send out military absentee ballots in time to vote

Last year, we covered some of the problems in the counting of military absentee ballots in Virginia, as did others. This problem has not gone away. It has just moved. The day before election day 2008, the McCain campaign filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia to force Virginia to count military absentee ballots that came in after election day. McCain lost Virginia by more than enough votes, but the case went on with the Department of Justice replacing the McCain campaign.There were filings last month and will likely be a hearing this month. So what?

The Virginia State Board of Elections argued in their most recent filing that they have no legal obligation to send out military absentee ballots in a timely manner. Restated, the State of Virginia has argued in a federal court filing that they can legally send out absentee ballots to active duty soldiers the day before an election. Restated again, the Democratic Chairwoman of the Virginia State Board of Election (appointed by the Democratic National Committee Chair Tim Kaine, in his capacity as Virginia Governor) Jean Cunningham just claimed a legal basis for massively raising the barrier to voting for soldiers at war.

Really. Read on for details.

PSA: Tell your friends in the military how to vote by absentee

(Posted on behalf of some Virginia activists who appreciate that those who serve deserve the right to vote)

For all the attention paid to the recent voting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one would think that the process for getting absentee ballots to our own service men and women should be simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, it’s a rather convoluted process and easy to miss the deadlines – especially if you’re deployed in a war zone.

For service personnel who claim residence in Virginia and New Jersey, this is a pressing issue, as the deadlines for requesting ballots for the statewide elections this November are fast approaching. A couple of organizations in Virginia, the Dominion Leadership Trust and ProjectVirginia are working to publicize how service men and women can vote in these two states’ 2009 elections.

The important first step of this process is to alert military personnel that they are eligible to vote absentee and give them the information to navigate the process for requesting a ballot. While both of these organizations are supporting Republican candidates, the information they are providing is a non-partisan step-by-step guide to navigating the process. They are simply asking everyone who knows someone in the military or a military family to email them this information – a small request to support our men and women in uniform.  You can use the links below:


New Jersey:

The voting difficulties faced by deployed military personnel are not new – and cut across federal, state and local elections. As Peter Roff of US News & World Report wrote in May 2009, the PEW Center on the States found that only 26 percent of the absentee ballots requested by military personnel were ever actually counted in 2006. The widespread difficulties with military absentee voting in 2008 led Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Beigich (D-AK) to sponsor a bipartisan bill, the Military Voting Protection Act and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to sponsor the bill in the House, earlier this year. While this legislation is a worthwhile effort, it is aimed at 2010 – so the rest of us need to step up just a little in 2009 and help spread the word to the troops and their families today.


NY-20: Don't forget the military. The state board of election did

It looks like Jim Tedisco may have pulled off the victory in NY-20 after all. And there is good reason to think that the remaining absentee ballots should favor Tedisco. That said, there was a serious problem.

The state Board of Elections seesm to have deliberately disinfranchised military voters. Heritage's Hans von Spakovsky describes how the Democrats on the Board of Election actually voted to reject a Department of Justice recommendation to send out ballots.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing the federal statute that guarantees the right of overseas citizens and military personnel to vote by absentee ballot, contacted the New York State Board of Elections and requested that they issue their ballots sooner for this race. The two Republican members of the board voted to support this request. Yet the two Democratic members of the board, shamefully enough, voted against doing so. Were they trying to disenfranchise military voters?

So the DoJ actually had to file suit against the NY State board of Election. Hans explains why that suit was still inadequate because, ultimately, the Civil Rights Division at DoJ doesn't take the issue of voting rights seriously for the military.

In the end though, there are about 1,000 military absentee votes outstanding. In spite of Democratic attempts to disenfranchise our soldiers, some of our troops will get to vote. And it looks like we will win the race.

But we need to stop this coniving next time.


Yepsen calls on reforming caucuses

MyDD's desmoinesdem points to this David Yepsen piece about reforming the Iowa caucus system. Yepsen notes, following Marc Ambinder, that both parties have created commissions to revisit the caucus process. Yepsen says:

It's one thing to tell critics to buzz off or to outmaneuver them during internal party skirmishes. It's another, more public-minded thing to say, "You know, you've got a point, and here's what we've done to address your concerns." [...]

So, while the 2012 election seems eons away, the procedural fights leading up to it aren't. Iowa's political leaders will need to move quickly after the election to discuss the changes they want to make to their processes to protect the caucuses while making them better. (It's also wise to discuss these changes now, while institutional memories are fresh and before new leaders and staffers are in place in three years, when the cycle begins again.)

Yepsen recommends a series of changes including running the caucuses with county auditors, using secret ballots (already done by Republicans), allowing absentee ballots, picking a better day, dis-allowing same-day registration, and setting national standards.

I should point out that at the RNC's Convention Rules Committee, a coalition of military groups fought to add language supporting a guaranteed right to vote for active duty military in all presidential nominating contests. While the langauge was gutted by the party establishment, the final language in the RNC rules is now:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state Republican Party for selecting delegates or alternate delegates or for binding teh presidential preference of such delegates may use every means practicable in the sole discretion of the state Republican Party, to encourage active military personnel the opportuntiy to exercise their right to vote.

This passes the buck to state Republican Parties who may yet decide to do the right thing and guarantee our servicemen and women the right to vote. Now with Yepsen on the side of this right (and the rights for others), there is a good chance that the caucus system may shift before the next election. And if Iowa moves, so move the rest of them.


Breaking: National Association of Secretaries of State endorse McCarthy's military voting bill

I have written a bunch about the problems that our soldiers have voting. Currently, as it stands, House Democrats, urged on by the unions, are blocking a bill that would increase the likelihood of the votes of our soldiers actually counting.

Last week Bob Novak also wrote about this issue. Today there was a significant advance. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the analog of the National Governors Association, endorsed Kevin McCarthy's Military Protection Voting Act of 2008, HR 5673.

None of the Democrats at NASS dared to vote no this, but House and Senate Democratic leaders refuse to bring this to a vote. This is a typical case of the Democrats putting their special interests ahead of the troops.

This was pushed by Chris Nelson, Secretary of State of North Dakota, and Sam Reed, Secretary of State of Washington.

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