Suppressing the military vote
My husband has been in the U.S. Army for over 22 consecutive years. He has served in the Airborne Division, completed three combat tours in Iraq, and helped stand up a new Army cyber command. He is a smart man, and definitely my hero.
Yet, with all of his Army training, the military has failed to teach him how to create a U.S. Postal envelope out of a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, this year as a deployed soldier, that is precisely what he is being asked to do. In order to cast his vote on the ballot emailed to him, he must create his own postal envelope from paper and Scotch tape.
My husband takes his civic duties extremely seriously, so, of course, he planned to vote in the 2020 presidential election. He communicated with the proper channels and was told that he could receive his ballot via email. The idea of voting electronically was quite enticing, so my husband logged on and requested his military absentee ballot.
In response, he received SEVEN pages of complicated instructions, which are rife with inaccuracies, contradictions, and false assumptions. In at least two places, servicemen and women are instructed to insert their ballot into an envelope that does not exist. Plain pieces of paper are labeled as an “envelope,” causing great confusion to anyone attempting to vote.
Because votes cannot be cast via email, he was required to create an envelope in which he could mail his ballot through the U.S. Postal Service. It took three grown men with advanced degrees over an hour to determine that they were, in fact, being asked in these instructions to undertake an arts-and-crafts project to cast their votes. In the end, although still unclear, it seems as though the UOCAVA Act (the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Voting Act) allows airmen, seamen, and soldiers to be asked to create not one but TWO hand-crafted envelopes.
The inconvenience presented to soldiers, in addition to the confusion created by the horrible instructions, is an incredible impediment to military voting. Additionally, the emailed documents have no markings which prevent it from being duplicated. Any individual receiving one of these ballots could reproduce scores of these ballots and vote multiple times. This enormous breach of security can easily be exploited, particularly given the elimination of the requirement to check signatures on mailed ballots in several states.
In the end, my husband and the two other soldiers he consulted with decided the process was simply too confusing, so my husband decided to take leave and return home to cast his ballot in person. He felt he had no other way of ensuring that his vote would be counted.
Unfortunately, not every deployed soldier, sailor, and airman is able to return home to vote in person. And no one that we have spoken with yet has successfully executed this emailed ballot system.
Is this system any way of guaranteeing that our warriors are able to take part in one of the most basic freedoms afforded to Americans – that of voting for their Commander-in-Chief? Should Army ruck sacks be equipped with scotch tape and copy paper during election years? How many brave American service people will be unable to vote in this critical election because of a poorly planned and badly executed system of email absentee ballots for our military?