Veterans have fought to protect and defend the American ideals we hold dear – like the right to vote, and a free and fair election. We deserve better than continued attacks on our democracy here in Florida.
After decades of service, we and our fellow service members put our lives on the line in defense of the ideals we hold dear. But right now, the fundamental right to vote, as well as the integrity of our election system as a whole, faces new threats from right here at home.
US military personnel have been allowed to vote by mail since the War of 1812. The War of 1812! Florida has allowed absentee voting for veterans, seniors, military families, and those in need for more than twenty years, with zero issues. You and President Trump praised the Florida elections in 2020, as results were reported quickly and accurately. You even bragged, in Florida “we did it right.”
But after learning that more Democrats utilize vote by mail than Republicans, GOP state legislators are working to rapidly restrict popular, time-tested voting methods like early and absentee voting. Methods that are relied upon by voters across party lines – policies that would have a disparate impact on military voters. Military veterans mail in our ballots while we serve at military bases across the country, and when we deploy overseas to protect the very freedoms Florida Republicans are trying to take away.
Despite a lack of evidence, Republican legislators are clamoring to solve a problem that nonpartisan experts and the courts say does not exist. It is crucial that we count the votes of our service members and veterans — and all Floridians who vote absentee.
Last year, Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Republican Senator Dennis Baxley, negated all current VBM requests, while requiring all voters to request vote-by-mail ballots every two years. That bill alone amounted to an unfunded mandate of $12 to $15 million of taxpayer money that your Supervisors of Elections had to spend just to implement this horrible bill. Most of your own Supervisors argue that the system already works well and does not need reform! But these suppression efforts apparently haven’t been enough.
This week, another Republican Senator Blaise Ingoglia, has filed yet another voter suppression bill, which would once again negate all current VBM requests, and require additional requests for every primary and general election.
These changes won’t make our elections more secure – current methods are already secure! Instead, they will make it harder for veterans like us to cast our ballots. It will also make it harder for seniors, rural voters who may live 50 miles or more from a voting location, voters of color, and voters with disabilities to vote.
We fought to defend our country and have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of lost democratic norms. We all support steps to bolster election integrity in Florida and across the nation, but efforts to restrict our freedom to vote will continue to wear away at the fabric of our civil society.
Our leaders shouldn’t be trying to make it harder for any person – but especially veterans – to vote. Instead, they should be working to ensure that our democracy finally – and fully – includes and works for everyone. Those are the values we put our lives on the line for, and will continue to do so.
Air Force veteran, writing about the intersection of domestic policy and national security, especially as it effects his home state of Florida.