Monday, October 08, 2012

Disenfranchised Over There (Polling Edition)

A few months ago, Democratic operatives were quietly predicting that President Obama could make "serious inroads" with the military vote in 2008.  Their forecast was based on a several factors, including Mr. Obama "ending" the war with Iraq; his focus on military family issues (with Mrs. Obama leading the way), and a belief that younger troops were more accepting of the President's more controversial positions, most notably his repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell."

Well, it was a nice theory.  Unfortunately for the President--and his party--the military vote remains solidly Republican.  Polling data from earlier this year suggested that voters affiliated with the armed forces (active duty, guard/reserve, retirees and veterans) preferred Mitt Romney by more than a 2-1 margin.  But the Dims weren't quite ready to give up the ship, noting that the first survey included a large number of older veterans who tend to be more conservative, reflecting their age, political leanings and party affiliation.

As for those currently wearing the uniform, Democratic prospects look equally bleak.  A new poll from the Military Times newspapers suggests that Romney bests Obama by a similar margin among its readership:

The professional core of the U.S. military overwhelmingly favors Mitt Romney over President Obama in the upcoming election — but not because of any particular military issues, according to a new poll of more than 3,100 active and reserve troops.
Respondents rated the economy and the candidates’ character as their most important considerations and all but ignored the war in Afghanistan as an issue of concern.

Among the 3,100 military readers surveyed by the Times, 66% favored Mitt Romney, while 26% said they planned to cast their ballots for President Obama.  Interestingly, the former Massachusetts governor is running about two points behind the 2008 GOP nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, while Mr. Obama's support is three points higher than it was four years ago.

According to the Times, about two-thirds of the military members who participated in poll are serving on active duty, while the rest were drawn from guard and reserve components.  The paper cautioned that their sample is a bit older--and whiter--than the general population.  However, their readers are also much better educated than the general electorate; almost 80% have a college degree, and more than one-quarter have earned a graduate degree.

Additionally, almost one in three of the survey respondents have been deployed for at least two years since 9-11.  That reflects a couple of factors; first, many have experienced the hardships--including combat--that have been a hallmark of military service over the past decade.  And secondly, poll participants represent the core of career officers and non-commissioned officers who form the backbone of the U.S. military.  They wee deployments, combat tours and other requirements as part of their job and (consequently) don't view presidential candidates solely in terms of who will--or won-t--continue combat operations.

It's also a reflection of perceived competency on key issues.  Clearly, members of the armed forces in 2012 are voting with their wallets, as are most Americans.  Skyrocketing gas and food prices place a heavy burden on recent recruits and mid-level NCOs.  And, virtually everyone in uniform is worried about continued defense cutbacks that will force thousands of junior personnel from the military (the Marine Corps alone will lose 10% of its active-duty strength by 2015).  Making matters worse, those facing involuntary separation from the armed forces will enter a civilian economy with dismal prospects for employment, particularly in the defense sector.

So, it's little wonder that Mr. Obama is gaining little traction among military voters.  And that may partly explain some of the recent, preemptive moves by Democrats and their friends in the federal bureaucracy.  Attorneys for the Democratic Party successfully challenged an Ohio early voting law that gave military members three extra days to cast their ballots, claiming it was unfair to other voters.  Then, there's the matter of dwindling absentee ballot requests from armed forces personnel stationed outside their home state.

With the election only a month away, various media outlets are reporting that the number of absentee ballot requests from military personnel in swing states have plunged by as much as 70% over 2008 levels.  Some experts put the blame (in part) on the Obama Administration's refusal to comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which the President signed into law three years ago.

More from Breitbart:
A new study by The Military Voter Protection Project (MVP) found the number of absentee ballots in Virginia and Ohio has dropped 70 percent since 2008. 
As of September 22, there were 12,292 absentee ballots requested  in Virginia by military overseas; in 2008, there were 41,762 requests. In Ohio, 9,707 absentee ballots had been requested by September 22; in 2012, there were 32,334 requests. 
In Florida and North Carolina, 121,395  and 19,109 absentee ballots, respectively, were requested by military voters in 2008; as of September 22, there have been 65,173 and 7,848 requests, respectively.
Eric Eversole, the executive director of MVP, said the these numbers are “shockingly low.” 
“While we knew the number of absentee ballots requests would increase as we got closer to the election—and they have—the number being requested is still way too low and indicates that many military members will have their voices silenced on Election Day,” Eversole said.  


The MOVE Act requires state and local election officials to send absentee military ballots on September 22nd, but nearly half of overseas military bases overseas lack offices where troops can register to vote.
According to the MVP study, the Pentagon and the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) failed to comply with the MOVE Act by providing registration offices on every military base to make it easier for military members to vote. The Department of Defense’s Inspector General confirmed these findings in a report. 
The lack of voting assistance offices at overseas locations is particularly disturbing.  Military units have appointed voting assistance officers for decades; it's a standard additional duty for junior officers and mid-level NCOs across the service.  How much more difficult can it be to appoint a voting officer for the entire installation and provide the required office space?  
Texas Senator John Cornyn smells a rat, and so do other members of Congress.  Unfortunately, there seems to be little effort to hold the administration accountable and consequently, thousands of military personnel will have their absentee ballots rejected once more.  
Is there a correlation between the Military Times poll and continuing problems with military absentee ballots?  Call us conspiracy theorists, but we believe the answer is yes.  With all pundits predicting a tight election, Democrats can't let Republicans collect thousands of votes from a constituency that prefers the GOP by an overwhelming margin.  After all, the Dims can read polls, too.  
ADDENDUM:  In case you're wondering, 57% of the military members surveyed by the Times plan to vote by absentee ballot.  


Storms24 said...

How is it the military can find and track my attendance for sensitivity training on DADT and "resiliency training" no matter where I am stationed but can't find a way to make sure I get a chance to vote in upcoming elections?

MarkD said...

My ballot arrived in Japan the week following Jimmy Carter's victory over Gerald Ford. This is nothing new, nothing short of scandalous, and not difficult to resolve.

The appropriate penalty, IMO, would be to relieve any service member this happens to of any obligation to pay State and Federal income taxes until the next election.

I'm pretty sure that would create the political will to fix the problem.