First, the state of New York missed the deadline to send out absentee ballots to its 320,000 military servicemen and women and overseas voters, in violation of federal law.
The 2009 MOVE Act requires each state to send out its military and overseas ballots 45 days prior to elections. New York City alone has about 50,000 servicemen and women and overseas voters.
Even after the Department of Justice gave New York a waiver of an additional 15 days (until October 1) to send out all its ballots, the state still managed to miss the extended deadline.
Then news came that over 35 counties in Illinois also missed the deadline to mail military ballots to our soldiers overseas. But in Obama’s hometown, Chicago, county election officials made sure that inmates at the Cook County Jail will not miss the election. The Chicago Board of Elections hand delivered ballots to the jail. They didn’t even wait for the inmates to apply – they brought the applications with the ballots! Over 2,600 inmates have cast ballots so far, while an estimated 2,600 soldiers will likely not receive a ballot for the Nov 2 election.
Call me cynical, but I can’t help but wonder if the tardiness of New York and Illinois has something to do with our military’s party identification and voter turnout.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 5, 2007, U.S. military officers tend to be Republicans. In 1976, while 25% of civilians characterized themselves as Republicans, 33% of military officers were Republicans — a military-civilian “gap” of only 8%. By 1996, the military-civilian gap on party affiliation had grown to 33%: while 34% of civilians self-identified as Republicans, so did a whopping 70% of military officers. Although the percentage of Republicans among military officers began to decline to 60% in 2004 and to 46% in 2006 (due to the unpopularity of the Iraq War), the military was still more Republican than the civilian population. According to Gallup, only 24% of civilian Americans identified themselves as Republicans in 2006.
Our servicemen and women also have a higher voter turnout rate.
According to “Voting and the American Military,” in the Civil Military Relations Journal of March 9, 2010, although the military turnout rate historically was significantly lower than that of the civilian population, in recent years military voting has exceeded that of the general population by more than 15%.
In 1976, voter turnout by military personnel was less than 40%, some 15% lower than the civilian turnout rate. That began to change in 1984, when the military turnout rate of 55% for the first time exceeded the national voter turnout rate. By 1992, the military voter turnout rate was 67%. In 2000, it was 69% (vs. 54.2% among civilians). In 2004, the military percentage increased to 79%, while the turnout rate among civilians that year was 60.1%.