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American Legion CO: ‘Voting is not a political act. It’s an act of citizenship’

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On Wednesday, the National Commander of the American Legion, James E. Koutz’ told the National Executive Committee that veterans must have a voice in Washington and that the issues affecting them must be addressed from absentee ballot requests to defense budget sequestration and the back log of VA claims.

In terms of this year’s presidential elections, Koutz relayed his concerns about service members having access to absentee voting ballots and that those ballots be correctly counted when cast.

The Military Voter Protection Project did a study in August 2012 that found absentee ballot requests from service members are down 70 percent from the 2008 elections.

The study stated that in 2009, Congress attempted to alleviate these challenges by passing the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act). Not only did the law promise to
modernize absentee voting through the use of technology, it required a more robust voter registration system for military voters—one that would automatically provide military voters with an opportunity to update their voter information during the check-in process at their new
duty-stations.

Unfortunately, this latter provision has yet to be fully implemented and that failure appears to be having a significant impact on the absentee ballot request rate for military voters in 2012.

The report also stated that the problem in large part rests with the Department of Defense (DOD) and its resistance to fully implement the voter assistance provisions of the MOVE Act in a timely manner.

The report mentioned that according to Republican Senator John Cornyn, the problems began well before the MOVE Act was passed and continued well after the bill was signed into law.

Senator Cornyn expressed his frustration with DOD at a speech in July 2011, “I still cannot comprehend why the Pentagon has been so resistant because the idea is pretty simple. As part of in-processing at each military installation, every service member would be offered an opportunity to fill out a simple form that would register the service member or family member to vote, or update an existing registration, and request an absentee ballot for the next federal election cycle.”

Moreover, nearly three years after Congress passed a law to guarantee military and overseas voters receive their absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election, several states are still failing to comply with the law.

Without immediate action, military voters once again will have their voices silenced in November.

Koutz stated that he is not thrilled with these problems the military members are having that these problems are completely unacceptable.

Koutz said, "Now we all know that our military is not to engage in politics, but to me it is unconscionable that public officials are not making it as easy as possible for military members to vote.”

“Voting is not a political act. It’s an act of citizenship.”

"It is up to all of us to remind Legion family members in our home departments how important it is for all of us to engage in this process," Koutz said. "We are all about service, and voting is one of the most important services that we can render as citizens."

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