A 92 percent drop in absentee-ballot requests by military personnel in Virginia is raising concerns that the Pentagon is failing to carry out a federal voting law.
With only 1,746 military voters in Virginia requesting absentee ballots so far this year -- out of 126,251 service members in the state --the Military Voter Protection Project says the system has broken down.
And it’s not just in the Old Dominion. MVPP Executive Director Eric Eversole reports significant declines in absentee-ballot requests by service members across the nation.
Compiling data from Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada, Eversole’s organization found that military families have requested 55,510 absentee ballots so far this year. That’s a sharp decline from the 166,252 sought in those states in 2008.
The dropoff is ironic, considering that Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) in 2009 to help highly transient military voters obtain absentee ballots wherever they are stationed.
“The fact is that an incredibly small percentage of military voters are requesting absentee ballots for the 2012 election, even though a majority of military members -- roughly two-thirds -- will need to vote by absentee ballot,” Eversole said.
Eversole acknowledged that personal responsibility figures into the equation. And updated figures as of Sept. 2 indicate a slight narrowing as Election Day draws closer. MVP's latest data for Virginia, for example, shows a 70 percent dropoff in military absentee ballots.
Another veterans group, the Military Defense Committee, disputes the MVP methodology and claims that absentee ballot requests are, in fact, on track to approach the 2008 levels.
But Eversole maintains that service members aren’t getting the same voter-assistance and access that civilians receive through motor-vehicle offices and social-service agencies. “We’re not seeing the same level of emphasis [on military voting] that we saw four years ago,” Eversole told Virginia Watchdog.
The former Navy JAG Corps officer blames “the federal bureaucracy and a little bit of stubbornness by the Department of Defense. The buck stops at the Federal Voting Assistance Program”...
“The MOVE Act was designed to create a more systematic, automatic procedure to update [service personnel's] voter information. The military would provide servicemen a form for voter registration and absentee-ballot requests upon arrival at a new duty station. This isn’t happening,” Eversole said.
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Editor's Note: Unacceptable.
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