Must-read: Absentee ballot requests from Florida’s military voters down 56% from 2008

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A Military Voter Protection Project report finds that absentee-ballot requests by Florida’s military voters are down by 56% from 2008 levels, mirroring trends found in several other battleground states  and prompting  several Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Senator John Cornyn, to demand answers about possible disenfranchisement of U.S. service members.

During the 2008 election cycle, 89,926 of Florida’s military voters cast an absentee ballot. So far in 2012, just 37,953 absentee ballots have been requested by service members registered to vote in Florida.

This represents a 56% drop-off from 2008. Keep in mind, of six battleground states thought to be key to the 2012 presidential election — Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia — Florida has, by far, the largest population of military voters.  It also has the highest percentage of these military voters who have requested an absentee ballot; 15.6% of 241,445 Florida’s service members have requested an absentee ballot compared to just 1.7% of North Carolina’s 108,748 military voters.

While the number of absentee ballot requests will increase in the coming weeks, especially as the election draws near, the amount needed to meet 2008 levels is staggering.

As the chart below indicates, several battleground states have witnessed an alarming and significant decrease in absentee ballot requests. It will be difficult to make up the difference in the coming weeks. 

Senator John Cornyn has been outraged by the mounting issues tied to soldiers voting this November.

“DoD leaders must answer for this serious failure and do everything in their power to make this right for military voters and their family members,” Senator Cornyn said.

The MVPP report comes on the heels of a report issued by the Pentagon’s Inspector General indicating deficient on-base voter assistance for military service members and their families, mandated by the 2009 law, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, or MOVE Act.

“This is an unacceptable failure by Pentagon leaders to comply with the law and ensure our service members and their families are able to exercise one of the most fundamental rights for which they sacrifice every day,” Senator Cornyn said.

The MOVE Act was passed by Congress and President Barack Obama, back in 2009, to ensure service members and their families stationed overseas had the access to vote.

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.

“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,” concludes the authors of the MVPP report.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.