I know it is cheesy, but on Tuesday I felt the most American I’ve ever felt. Maybe American isn’t the right word. I felt patriotic, and experienced a deep pride and freedom in my country when exercising my right to vote for the first time, even if some of the people or propositions I voted for didn’t win.
However, I was disappointed to find out members of our military may not have had the chance to vote in this election due to a difficulty in receiving absentee ballots from overseas. The Military Voter Protection Project anticipated a bleak turnout from those serving and other news sources speculated thousands would go uncounted. While this problem has been reoccurring, it sparked a passion in me now that I am of voting age.
Why are those who defend my freedoms and opportunity to vote not ensured a way to cast their ballots as well—especially with the technology we have today? If you believe in this country enough to risk your life for it, you sure deserve a say in its future.
The day before the elections, Senators John Cornyn, Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Rob Portman and Marco Rubio wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addressing the thousands of ballots that would go blank from our military. They stated their amazement in the lack of attention from the Department of Defense in modernizing the system for our military, calling the current system “archaic” and “inefficient.”
We keep passing acts to protect the rights of service members to vote regardless of where they are stationed, but we are not acting on them. This letter was meant to call out the neglect toward the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act in 1986 and the expansion of this act in 2009 with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.
This problem has persisted for up for 26 years with little to no attempts to fix it.
I personally do not understand how I can have a conversation with Siri on my iPhone, but our troops have to wait for ballots to come in the mail and fill them out with a ballpoint pen. We are a technologically savvy world and our armed forces need a better voting system.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program created a strategic plan in response to the MOVE act. This plan deserves attention now. They support online ballot delivery and marking for the armed forces to make it faster and easier for those in uniform to vote.
But this shouldn’t just be a plan, it should be a reality. I don’t understand why we are still in the process stage of designing a secure and electronic voting system with the available technology we have at our fingertips. It isn’t available to the military, not because we can’t do it, but because we haven’t made it a priority.
It may be too late for this election, but there should be no excuses for the next one. We all have our rights in this democracy and need to get a MOVE on protecting them for those who protect us.