With the 2012 presidential election just around the corner, politicians everywhere are beginning to bombard their constituents with increasingly negative — and downright wrong — campaign ads. They all hope to convince the undecided and uncommitted electorate that voting for the other side would bring about the apocalypse, and the only way to preserve American life as we know it is to vote for Mitt Romney, a true American, or to vote for Barack Obama, because he’ll keep us from going to back to the Dark Ages.
Whatever. Since I don’t live in a contentious swing state, nor do I own a television or pay for cable, I don’t see them everywhere. I find them amusing more than annoying.
But instead of finding new ways to piss off the American public, what the politicians really SHOULD be doing is making sure that every citizen can make it out to the polls. And that includes a voting bloc generally overlooked by both the public and politicians alike.
I had a very interesting conversation with a friend this morning about soldier’s voting rights, and I decided to take to the blogosphere to post more thoughts about the subject. (To the friend this is referencing: You had to have seen this coming.)
As I’ve established on this blog previously, I am an election nut. So like those horribly negative campaign ads, expect more rants/posts about voting and modern disenfranchisement as November approaches.
Living in such close proximity to a military installation has trained me to keep my eyes and ears open to issues especially sensitive to soldiers and their families. One of these issues is the continued disenfranchisement of our boys in uniform.
It’s not a too much of a problem for soldiers who are at home. They’re subject to the same voting procedures as everyone else. The problem is for soldiers who are deployed overseas. These soldiers have to abide by absentee voting procedures, and absentee voting procedures are generally just a clusterfuck of awful, made ten billion times worse by the fact that every damn state has a different procedure.
Here are the problems:
- Much like the U.S. Census (which is another issue), soldiers’ votes are counted toward their home of record. Not where they actually live. This makes it difficult because, as I’ve said before, voting procedures are different in every single state. So a single unit deployed to Afghanistan is subject to potentially 50 different absentee ballot procedures.
- In order to get their hands on an absentee ballot, soldiers have to request them. Do you really think these soldiers (who are already preoccupied with their survival) are going to remember to request a ballot? Why aren’t we making sure we send enough absentee ballots WITH them when they deploy?
- When soldiers finally get the ballots, there’s no effective way to get them back home. So they usually come back late.
- There are no effective ways to keep our soldiers informed of issues while their overseas. They have spotty access to the news and, once again, they’re preoccupied with their survival. Voting is usually the last thing on their mind.
My friend pointed out that an easy (and frankly obvious) solution to the absentee voting procedure would be to let the U.S. Department of Defense govern soldiers voting overseas. With modern technology and the Internet, it’s ten million times easier today than it was twenty years ago.
But the problem with this is it would LITERALLY take an act of Congress. And as we all know, they can’t get anything right.
This is just one of the myriad problems with our voting laws, but I think it’s probably one of the more important and pressing problems. These men and women risk their lives everyday to protect our freedoms. The least we could do is make it easier for them to have a say in who their own commander-in-chief will be.