Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Where is the outrage about *this* type of voter suppression?

Posted by sanityinjection on July 24, 2008

After the 2000 and 2004 elections, we heard a lot of whining about alleged voter suppression and disenfranchisement. The big bad racist Republicans, we were told by the earnest media, had conspired to keep minorities from voting by insisting on discriminatory restrictions like having your name actually present on the roll of registered voters. However, attention to these claims inevitably faded, because while every election involves some isolated shenanigans (ask Chicago Mayor Daley), there has never been any credible evidence of organized, widespread vote suppression.

Bob Novak points out, however, that there *is* a population whose votes are routinely undercounted, and that population is America’s military men and women serving overseas. The problem is not a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise the military, but rather the inability or unwillingness of the Pentagon to devote the necessary resources to ensure that soldiers receive their ballots and are able to have them returned in time to be counted. As Novak points out, “A combat officer has enough to do without handling the votes of troopers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The good news is that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) have agreed in principle to try to work together to find a solution. Let us hope that this effort is not impeded by one party or the other’s concern about who the military votes are likely to go to (So far I have read interviews with military personnel planning to support both Obama and McCain), because that would indeed be voter suppression. I fear, though, that any legislation will come too late to impact the 2008 election which is only four months away.

The full column is not too long and is worth the read:


6 Responses to “Where is the outrage about *this* type of voter suppression?”

  1. Dan said

    I have a vague worry about people in the military voting at all anyway.

    There is a reason the military is led by a civilian. At first blush I am a bit uncomfortable about anyone in the military weighing in on who their civilian leader should be.

    If the military every becomes caught up in a cult of personality (entirely possible- it is designed to be “uniform” after all) they are enough people in the combined forces to alter the course of an election if they start voting in lockstep.

  2. sanityinjection said

    Good point, but when has any group ever voted in lockstep? The secret ballot ensures that military leaders cannot pressure their subordinates to vote in a certain way.

    Further, who deserves the right to vote more than those who risk their lives to defend that right? Remember, Henlein argued whether it is our right to vote and not theirs that should be in question!

  3. Dan said

    Heinlein did argue that, and Starship Troupers is one of my favorite books of all time ;). However, I disagree entirely with that specific philosophy. The military is an ongoing necessity, and not something that we should every be happy that we have. Just by needing one we are in a “no-win” situations, which goes double if we ever have to use it (even if we win). We absolutely should never be happy that we need a military, and we should absolutely never want it to become self-funded or self-directed. That is the exact definition of a conflict of interest. We should not ever want even the smallest possibility possibility of a military that could vote itself into de facto power.

    As far as the likelihood of individuals in a group voting in lockstep, i would generally agree if there were several alternatives to vote for. But in our polarized two-party politics people will vote for what they feel the “lesser of two evils” to be since they don’t have any other choice. I would entirely expect individual voters in the military to overwhelmingly favor foreign policy hawks. Are there public records showing the actual mix of military votes on the issues? Or is that kind of segmentation not allowed?

  4. sanityinjection said

    There is no public disclosure of anyone’s votes beyond simple numeric aggregates. The only way to know how members of the military vote would be through polling, which is not necessarily reliable.

    I can see good reasons why members of the military would vote for both hawkish and dovish candidates. Young soldiers tend to be gung-ho and eager for action, while older ones tend to be much more dovish. It’s worth noting too, that our country has elected several generals as President, without any corresponding miltarization of our government. In fact, it was the last general who served as President, Eisenhower, who warned about the possible negative effects of what he called “the military-industrial complex”.

    Our country is somewhat unique in that we have never experienced a real attempt at a military coup. That does not make such a thing impossible, but we have done a fairly good job of inculcating in our military the need to obey civilian authority.

  5. sanityinjection said

    Although there’s no mechanism to track donations less than $200, this article suggests that, judged by the contributions of military personnel to political candidates, there is a healthy diversity of political views within the armed forces:

  6. […] first wrote about this back in July in response to a column by Bob Novak. Novak explained that there was a bipartisan effort in the House to remedy the persisting […]

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