From Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, who served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq:
Every citizen deserves the right to vote and have his vote counted. This principle is at the foundation of the American system of government, and is the core tenet of good governance the U.S. promotes around the world.
Unfortunately, the voices of many of America’s brave military men and women are in danger of being silenced this Election Day, due to unfair voting restrictions and failure on the part of our leaders to implement key provisions of the 2009 Military and Overseas Voters Empowerment Act.
In North Carolina only 7,848 ballots had been requested by military members and their spouses as of late September, down 59 percent from 2008, according to the Military Voter Protection Project.
That means that many of the Americans sacrificing the most in service to this country won’t even have a say in deciding who the next commander-in-chief will be.
While our nation has made efforts to ease the way for military personnel to exercise this fundamental right, we quite obviously still have a long way to go before military voters are treated equitably.
Policymakers in Ohio recently recognized this, and extended the early voting period for service members by three days. But instead of being lauded for its efforts, the state was slapped with a lawsuit claiming that this was unconstitutional under the 14th amendment.
In response, 15 veterans’ organizations – all non-partisan groups with a shared dedication to protecting the right of service members to vote – entered the fray, arguing that the lawsuit will create a terrible precedent that will undermine the rights of members of the military.
What’s at stake here is not just “special” treatment for military personnel. It’s respectful recognition of the heavy burden our government places upon them in service to our nation.
Providing military personnel – often serving overseas and far from home – with a reasonable amount of flexibility in voting, is proper and necessary. We extend this flexibility to military personnel in other realms. For example, military personnel are frequently granted automatic extensions for filing their tax returns, and men and women serving in combat zones often face no federal tax liability on all or part of their income.
Soldiers and military personal deserve the same deference and consideration when it comes to voting.
Concerned Veterans for America will bring attention to this and other issues facing military families by hosting a bus tour through several presidential campaign swing states.
The “We Can Do Better” tour will come through North Carolina on Monday and Tuesday, allowing service members and veterans to hear directly from leaders in the veterans’ community.
If Washington politicians don’t get it on something as simple as military voting, why should anyone be surprised that they have been unable to tackle the far more complex, and fundamental issues?
It’s time to put an end to the political games. Our leaders should be working to expand voting opportunities for our troops, not diminish them. Join us in ensuring that the voices of North Carolina’s military men and women, and all Americans, are heard.