Chances are, regardless of your political stance, you remember the 2004 election. John Kerry was blasting George W Bush about literally everything, and we saw Bush fire back with Kerry's own statements. People held up flip flops, and there was a whole host of political jokes. The war in Iraq seemed to be escalating, as the insurgency grew worse and many were certain that Bush couldn't POSSIBLY win. We saw the rise of Super PACs, "I approve this message", swiftboating somehow became a word in common usage, and politics as we knew it became ever more polarizing and divisive.
I saw almost none of this. At the time I was in the Kirkuk area of Iraq bouncing between FOB Altun Kopri, Dibbis, Bernstein, and Gains-Mills. To give you an idea, the area that my 2,500 man brigade covered was the size of West Virginia. We were busy. My ability to get news was almost nil, and I had to rely on the Stars and Stripes papers which would be very infrequently delivered. At the time I was more worried about getting hit with an IED, complex ambushes, and incoming indirect fire. Politics for me was far removed, so I couldn’t really care less about the RNC or the DNC. I could care less about the political adds. People were dying around me.
I did care about my vote. I wasn’t sure if I would make it through the deployment, but if I wasn’t by God, I was going to vote, if it was literally the last thing I did. I asked my parents to register me, because the mail was getting pretty unreliable as I got further and further out from FOB Warrior (Kirkuk Regional Air Base for the Air Force). Once my family sent me a letter and it took almost a month for me to get it. Thankfully my parents registered me right away, my dad may have fubbed my signature but. . . I was a bit out of the way.
So there is a date that the ballots are due. Everybody is getting theirs mailed to them. Apparently California took its sweet time, and then the mail took even more sweet time. That was before it got to the military mail system. About a month before the due date I was on FOB Warrior for a small rest and refit, it was a week and a half stand down, so I figured I had time. Then I got sent out to Gains-Mills. Now I started to sweat because mail came once a week with the supply convoy.
I took the extreme measure of actually getting on the battalion freq and pestering my company every day about my ballot. I could have gotten in a lot of trouble for putting nonofficial traffic on the battalion freq. I was told quite forcefully that I should not ever tie up the battalion net for anything short of essential traffic.
About a five days before it is due, I get called into the Bulldog (Bravo Battery 2/11 FA) TOC (Tactical Operations Center), they told me I had a call from Warrior. To my amazement it was my platoon sergeant telling me, that my ballot was in, that it would be coming out on the next LOGPAC (supply convoy), and he jokingly told me there would also be paperwork for my article 15 for pestering battalion about my ballot. I didn’t get an article 15, though I probably should have.
The next LOGPAC was due two days later, and all seemed right with the world. Then the route that went to my FOB was declared “black” after a series of really nasty IED strikes. Which delayed the convoy. Essentially what happened is that the day the ballot was due to be turned in back on FOB Warrior, I got the ballot. The LOGPAC doesn’t stay long, and mail had to officially be sorted by an officer and NCO. Had I torn through all the mail, and pulled out my ballot, I might have had enough time to fill it out and send it back with the LOGPAC.
That is not what happened. I got my ballot that night. It was effectively just another piece of paper with my name on it. With the routes being black, there was no way I was getting back to FOB Warrior without someone needing immediate evac. This is how I lost my chance to vote. I got disenfranchised not by any sinister plot to ensure I didn’t get my vote, but because of a erratic morass. I have no doubt that during this presidential election, there will indeed be more than a few military ballots that will get “lost” along the way. It is unthinkable that the one time that the military has a voice in how their employed, they do not get that chance, because of some clerk somewhere that misses a deadline.
The Military vote is a laughably small percentage of the ballots cast. The military accounts for .45% of the US population. I think that it is painfully clear that we have not only the duty, but the moral obligation to ensure that not only do these votes get to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and, Marines. There really is no reason for any service member to be denies the right to vote.