Military Members Overseas Excluded From Caucuses

July 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Analysis & Research, Blog, Military

soldierandflagLarry Romo, Texas Democratic Veterans Chairman says, “The caucus system discriminates against some of our military and their families, the Texans that are fighting for our Country in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also discriminates against Texans that are in the military or family members of the military serving our Country in other states or countries. They cannot have a voice in the caucus. This is undemocratic and unpatriotic. Change the system to let their votes count!”

Members of the military who are stationed overseas are able to request a ballot by mail for the primary, but they are not able to attend the caucuses. One of the issues the West Committee will need to investigate is how many members of the military requested and received a ballot by mail. We can assume that if military members voted by mail that they were not able to attend the caucus, so their votes were not counted equally as those people on the home front who were able to “vote twice” by attending the caucuses after voting in the primary.

In “Bringing Voting Rights to Military and Overseas Voters,” report author Tova Wang, Democracy Fellow at The Century Foundation, explains how difficult it is for military and overseas voters to vote, examines the problems encountered in making sure that their votes are counted, and suggests reforms for both easing the procedural problems and improving turnout among this often neglected group of voters.

According to the report, the biggest problem confronting overseas and military voters in the 2008 nominating system is the caucuses. More than one third of the states plan to have a nominating contest that is a caucus or convention for at least one of the two parties. Caucuses do not allow absentee ballots, and mandate personal attendance. As a consequence, they completely exclude members of the armed services stationed overseas or away from home within the United States, voters who are working or studying abroad, and voters fulfilling government contracts, such as for the Department of Defense, the State Department, or USAID; similarly, the families of these individuals living away from home also cannot participate.

In addition to the military members on active duty currently stationed overseas, the West Committee should also determine how many former military members who are now past retirement age and were unable to attend the caucuses. Many elderly people do not like to drive at night or they may have health issues that prevent them from activities that go into the late evening. Many precincts conventions on March 5 lasted several hours. Many former military members who are now in their 70s or above fought for their country in their youth. Those who fought in World War II have been called “The Greatest Generation”. Veterans and military members have earned the right to have their votes counted equally. The TDP needs a system that ensures that they all have the ability to participate fully in the delegate selection process.

In 1988, Texas Democrat Scott Cobb was in the military stationed in Europe. Cobb says, “I was able to request a ballot by mail, but there was no way that I could have attended the caucuses in 1988, which was the first year of the Texas hybrid caucus system. That year, one candidate won the primary and another candidate won the caucuses. I had organized my precinct in the 1984 caucuses, so I knew how important it was to attend the caucuses”.