This week I sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to voice concerns about reports indicating a steep decline in absentee ballot requests from military personnel and their spouses. The Military Voter Protection Project (MVPP) indicates a 92-percent drop in absentee-ballot requests by service members in the state of Virginia as well as a more than 50-percent decrease in other swing states including Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada and Alaska.
This data is particularly troubling when considered alongside another report released by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense which calls into question the ability of American service members to obtain on-base voter assistance. While Federal law mandates voting assistance offices on all military bases outside war zones, independent Pentagon investigators only found 114 voting assistance offices among 229 total military bases.
The ability to vote in free and fair elections is a cornerstone of democracy and among the most important rights of American citizens. No effort should be spared to make certain that the men and women who serving our country in uniform -- and the families by their side -- can exercise their right to choose the leaders responsible for sending them into harm's way in defense of our democracy.