MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
In less than three weeks, Americans will head to the polls to decide between the Democratic incumbent, President Barack Obama, and his challenger, former Republican Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. As is the case every election, however, millions of patriotic Americans will be unable to punch their ballot in the voting booth. Many members of the U.S. military, due to overseas deployments, or simply being stationed far away from home, must vote via absentee ballot in order to be heard.
But this year, in a tight race for the White House that promises to have enormous implications for the Department of Defense, absentee ballot requests among members of the armed forces are down.
According the Military Voting Project, a nonpartisan advocate for military participation in the electoral process, in many states, service member requests for absentee ballots are down at least 50 percent from where they were in the 2008 presidential election.
This year, neither of the candidates for president have any military experience, nor do either of their running mates.
The main divergence in the two platforms comes in how the candidates say they will handle the defense department.
Both candidates pledge major reforms in the military over the next four years, a thought that should motivate many in uniform to vote. In 2010, however, fewer than 30 percent of active-duty service members participated in the mid-term elections, according to a recent report from the Pentagon’s inspector general.
According to that data, roughly half of all the troops who voted did so via absentee ballot, which make the low numbers of absentee ballot requests all the more troubling. The deadline for absentee ballot requests in most states is the end of October, so there is still time for the nearly 80 percent of service members who are registered voters to act, though they need to act quickly in order to be heard.
Service members and their families seeking more information on the voting process or looking to request an absentee ballot can do so online through the Federal Voting Assistance Program at http://fvap.gov.