Since the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord rallied to the cause of liberty in 1775, the American military has held a unique place of respect and affection in our national ethos.
Yet in the coronavirus relief package recently passed by Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats tried to include language making it easier to commit vote fraud with the ballots of our military stationed overseas.
House Democrats' proposed additions to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act included changes to election law that would provide cover for individuals and activists yearning for federal protection for voting fraud schemes that could include military ballot manipulation.
Democrats demonstrated that their wish list in a emergency bill designed to curb coronavirus and protect the economy had nothing to do with either. Requests included the ultimately granted $25 million to DC’s Kennedy Center—now furloughing to 60 percent of its staff including the National Symphony—and an extra $7.5 million for the Smithsonian Institution, currently closed.
But their inappropriate demands were not just financial.
House Democrats used the word “temporary” 22 times in their legislative requests. But all changes to election law were to “go into effect in the November 2020 election and for each succeeding federal election.” Pelosi and team wanted to make sure provisions imperiling election integrity, particularly military votes, were permanent.
General changes would usurp states’ Article I rights to determine election procedures, remove voter ID requirements, and provide vote harvesters with the ability to collect and deliver as many absentee ballots as they could fit in a moving truck.
Changes to military vote protocols were even worse.
The Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act requires states ensure overseas service members can vote from their home state of residence. Amid concerns that time frames between absentee ballot requests and their return were too short to provide a full count, Congress passed the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, requiring states to send overseas ballots at least 45 days before an election.
The MOVE Act did help with turnout, increasing the number of overseas votes successfully counted from 30 percent of ballots sent in 2006, to 53 percent of ballots sent in 2018. But at least 17 percent of overseas military members did not vote because ballots were late or did not arrive at all. These statistics are not acceptable.
All elected officials and private citizens should work to increase participation rates and ensure the security of every warfighter vote.
Absentee military ballots are currently printed with service members' names and states of residence. Instead of strengthening these protections, Speaker Pelosi wanted to use COVD-19 relief to send blank ballots to our military in foreign countries and hostile areas. This opens up fraud at domestic mailing and delivery points, within foreign mail services, and again at local voting stations.
Blank ballots? For war fighters who put themselves in danger to protect all of us and the Constitution that defines American freedom? Blank ballots could nullify their votes for their Commander-in-Chief. Why not just air drop ballots from a cargo plane? They would not be any safer fluttering in the wind than they would be under Pelosi’s plan.
Pelosi’s proposed military voting changes also demand additional personal information from our military when they request ballots. In a move both insulting and ironic, Ms. Pelosi would require these honorable soldiers, sailors, and airmen provide a ridiculous assurance to the government that they are not the ones committing vote fraud when their ballots are only at risk when out of their hands.
The American Constitutional Rights Union recently launched its Protect Military Votes project that will work within current military voting guidelines to ensure all military members understand how to register and vote. We will diligently monitor any military ballot fraud reported as occurring at the local level.
When starting this project, we found innovative citizen-based ways to inform the military of their voting rights and protect their ballots. We expected resistance from the anti-voter ID, ballot harvesting, don’t-clean-voter-rolls crowd.
What we did not expect was opposition to military voting security from a group of elected officials on Capitol Hill.
Although all votes in America are sacred, perhaps warfighter votes might be considered even more so; they are certainly treated as such by the military itself.
What our military has earned from us is an imperative that we defend their voting rights with passion and diligence wherever they are under assault, including attacks from some of the very officials whose names will be on the next absentee ballot they receive.
Although Democrats' changes were not included in the final bill, we now know the liberal plan to dilute the integrity of the military vote. We at home must remain vigilant on behalf of those who are not.
Ken Blackwell is a Policy Board Member for the American Constitutional Rights Union and Protect Military Votes, and former Secretary of State for Ohio.