Military should be allowed to vote

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 12, 2003

State Auditor Beth Chapman is once again fighting for the rights of Alabama’s military personnel.

Chapman, whose family resides in North Shelby County, wrote a letter to Gov. Bob Riley today proposing legislative changes which would ease the voting process for Alabama’s servicemen and women during special, off-year elections such as the one which will occur Sept. 9.

Chapman said in the vote slated for Sept. 9, Alabama’s military personnel who are stationed overseas were not allowed adequate time to vote.

According to media reports, because the special ballots were not printed until the beginning of August and U.S. Mail is the only legal means of voting by absentee ballot, there was not enough time for the ballots to be received by the state in order to be counted in the Sept. 9 vote.

&uot;Ironically, these men and women are the ones working on the front lines to protect our rights, while forfeiting their own,&uot; Chapman said.

&uot;To be aware of this problem and fail to create a fair and timely means by which they can vote on crucial issues in their state while serving overseas would be a travesty of justice at best.&uot;

Presently, she said, absentee voting laws prohibit the right of immediate family members of servicemen or women from receiving and completing absentee applications on their behalf.

Absentee applications can only be received in two ways: personally delivered or sent through U.S. Mail, which when traveling to Kuwait or Iraq can take an average of 12 to 15 days.

Based on that number of days, the entire process of casting an absentee ballot from overseas would take 72 to 90 days.

Chapman offered her assistance to the governor in creating legislation to correct what she terms as an &uot;injustice.&uot;

&uot;Members of our military are providing us a great service; let’s not do them a disservice by making it virtually impossible for them to vote in special elections,&uot; she wrote.

&uot;In a time when many of our citizens march and protest for the voting rights of once convicted felons, we should be adamant in ensuring the voting rights of our state’s law-abiding men and women who serve in the U.S. Military.&uot;

Chapman has suggested the following for future legislation: the use of commercial shipping services for absentee ballots and applications on military bases only; allowing military family members with proper legal military documentation to request and complete applications on behalf of their loved ones; and the use of affidavits by commanding military officers to return more than one ballot per envelope.

She concluded her letter to the governor: &uot;I know you join me in the belief that voting is a sacred freedom and that the military is a noble service. How these men and women vote is of no concern to me, only that they are allowed to vote.&uot;