Man, considering that the original article which has spawned however many posts across at least four blogs was, like, eight sentences long, this topic sure is getting a beating. Anyway, here's the latest from Kevin and Rob (here and here).
Let's talk first about partisanship, since Kevin brings it up:
The majority of military personnel who vote absentee vote Republican. But the Democrats, already perceived as weak on foreign policy (and, during the Clinton Presidency, as anti-military), can't really come right out and say they'd like to make it more difficult for those votes to be counted. It's more palatable politically to advocate seemingly reasonable provisions regarding residency.
State party chairs often say egregious things in the name of advancing their side's interests. Susan Weddington supported Rick Perry's decision to let the courts draw Congressional borders in 2001, for example, because she said at the time that the courts would do a fairer job than the Democratic House would. A better question to ask would be whether what White said at that time was a throwaway line in the aftermath of a surprising defeat (i.e., sour grapes) or an actual policy position that he lobbied for? Note that unless the Val Verde election was held in the early spring, the next chance White or any Democrat could have had to push for a bill restricting voter registration in this fashion would have been 1999. Has anyone checked to see if such a bill was actually filed, and if so if Bill White was quoted supporting it? It's fine if you want to hold this against him anyway, I just want to put his sin in perspective. If he did in fact get someone to sponsor a law like this, then you've got my attention.
And of course we can't discuss the partisanship in this issue without noting that Jerry Patterson, the Republican Land Commissioner who brought it up, does not currently reside in Houston, meaning that his primary interest here is nothing but partisanship.
Now, then. On to what Rob says.
I remember this event, it was one of the major events in my life. I was stationed in Virginia at OSIA (now DTRA), lived in Maryland, and had volunteered to take investigational new drugs because I was urged to work on some biological weapons dismantlement projects. I was happy to do it, I thought it was important work and liked the idea of working with something a little dangerous. Being a military interpreter and in cryptology, I sat behind a computer most of the time and wanted to risk my life (a little) in defense of the Constitution of the United States.
I was also proud to be a Texan and serious about voting. I had to jump through some hoops to vote absentee and even though I didn't always plan ahead well enough, I got to vote most of the time. I researched issues, called friends back home for advice, my mother mailed me voting guides.
That said, I note that Rob chose to vote in Texas, where he came from, rather than in Virginia or Maryland. I presume he did so because he had a connection to Texas and he cared more about Texas elections than those in his temporary home. Which was exactly my point when I said that the default should be where the person came from. And given that the ballots in question in Val Verde were all mail-in ballots, the level of hassle would have been the same wherever these people chose to vote.
In Rob's later post, he quotes from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
Where is my "legal voting residence?"
For voting purposes, your "legal voting residence" can be the state or territory where you last resided prior to entering military service or the state or territory that you have since claimed as your legal residence. To claim a new legal residence you must have simultaneous physical presence and the intent to return to that location as your primary residence.
Now, I don't know (and couldn't find via a quick search) when these rules were adopted. Maybe they came into play after 1997 as a result of some Clintonian conspiracy to disenfranchise military voters, and maybe they're widely reviled throughout the armed forces. Maybe not. If they were in place nationally in 1997, then either White was advocating that Texas get in step with the rest of the country, or he was speaking from ignorance since this was already in place. Once again, I have to ask: What's the big stinking deal? We're not saying military folks on domestic or overseas assignments can't vote. We're saying they must vote where their permanent address is, and their permanent address should reflect where they last lived or where they plan to live next.
Given that I'm about to take a week-long hiatus, this is undoubtedly the last thing I'll say on this subject, which is surely a relief to anyone who's read this far.Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 09, 2003 to Election 2003 | TrackBack