I did not to get to vote in this election. I am active duty military and have lived away from the state where I vote, West Virginia, where my family settled in the 1790s for about eighteen years. It used to be that as long as I let the state knew where I lived my absentee ballot was sent to me without question. But then something changed. I stopped getting ballots. In 2012 I ended up calling my county commissioner’s office to ask why. I was told that I had to now reapply each election year. I was barely allowed to vote. In fact though I sent it in, I don’t even know if it was counted.
West Virginia used to be a Blue State, and the legislature still has a slight majority of Democrats, but at its heart the state as as Fire Engine Red as it gets. Business interests have priority, the environment suffers, the secondary education system is broken and the poor, who gives a damn about them?
The code of my state specifically states that military personnel must reapply every election cycle. This is a fairly recent change. In fact I grew up in a California, and when I first entered activity duty in the early 1980s in that state never failed to get an absentee ballot. Now the rules have changed. Evidently in an attempt to make it harder to vote under the guise of preventing voter fraud the onus is on the person serving their country to make sure that they reapply, mind you that people living in the state don’t need to do that. In fact they can walk up, do early voting or vote the same day. Heck even a person dying on a hospital bed in the state on election day can get an emergency absentee ballot brought to them and in between their dying breaths can have someone mark a ballot for them.
The sad thing is you don’t even get a reminder from the state that you need to reapply, even though they have my address and e-mail info. It’s not like the state or county is a massive metropolis where it would be too difficult to do this. That simple effort on the part of the state to reach their active duty members living away from home wouldn’t be that hard, nor would simply sending out the ballot.
Now I will take my personal responsibility, I knew the rule and should have registered. If I was in my right mind I would have done it. However I was in the midst of terrible year dealing with a move, and a major PTSD meltdown that shattered me for much of the year, I just forgot to reapply, and by the time I remembered it was too late.
But it shouldn’t have to be that way. We in the military should not have to jump through extra hoops that people at home don’t have to be concerned with when it comes to voting. In fact, though the mechanism is there to vote, it is a way to make it more difficult and to ensure that your vote doesn’t get counted. But, that’s what you get for begin registered in a state when certain groups want to make sure that voting is restricted.
The process is insidious and terribly undemocratic, and it devalues the citizenship and voting rights of the members of less than one percent of the population that serves in the military. But then, if those people only make up one percent of the vote, what do they matter and why should anyone give a damn.
I’ll remember that the next time some politician from West Virginia says the empty words “thank you for your service.”
Screw you West Virginia politicians, pundits and preachers of both parties, my Democrats, and my former party the GOP, which is about to take over, I won’t be coming back when I retire. You can keep it.