13 July 2004

Over at Intel Dump, Phil Carter makes some important points concerning constructive disenfranchisement of soldiers, sailors, and airmen. I think he left out the most important issue, though: and that is the identity of the Voting Assistance Officers. Too often, VAO is an additional duty thrown onto the most-junior officer in the battalion/squadron/vessel, who in turn has to dragoon some NCOs into assisting him (for some reason, USAF women were almost never the VAO while I was on active duty, even when they were the most junior in a unit).

Sorry, but this is wrong. A lot of junior enlisted don't want to go to someone in his/her chain of command for assistance with a "secret" ballot, particularly while deployed and knowing that the mail is subject to censorship review! VAOs should instead be a support-staff function, and preferably performed by someone not in the chain of command. Put a VAO on duty at BXs and PXs, post offices, military clinics and hospitals, personnel offices, officers' and NCO clubs, and so on. Maybe even the chaplain's office, although military chaplains are enough of a problem for other reasons to make this possibly counterproductive. Don't subvert the process of voting by giving the command function one more apparent chance to intrude on what people rightly regard as private!

When I was a commanding officer, I did not delegate VAO duties. I did it myself; I trained my orderly room staff, including the secretary; and I told my airmen that I cared more that they voted than for whom they voted. That's my idea of truly subversive activity: Take back government from activists with narrow agendas and personal self-interests by encouraging greater participation in at least the electoral process by everyone.

So, if you're reading this, you're eligible to vote, and you haven't registered to vote, I order you to do so. Then give me 25 pushups—that's 20 for me and 5 for the Electoral College! I can't hear you checking for hanging chads!