The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Sarah Streyder is the founder of the Secure Families Initiative and a proud Space Force spouse. She is an advocate for principled foreign policy, and passionate about elevating military spouse voices. Sarah encourages everyone she meets to get involved, organize and vote.
Military voters are not voting as often as they should.
Every day, the 2.5 million Americans who have volunteered to serve in our armed forces put on their uniforms in the face of uncertainty. While current events from half a world away dominate our news feeds and hearts right now, it can be hard to focus on the seemingly little stuff -- like registering to vote.
But the 2022 elections are already here, and military voters need to show up.
The Military Vote Coalition represents 23 military family and veteran-serving nonprofits in a nonpartisan collaboration to defend and advance our community's access to the ballot box. We're joining our efforts to remind military service members, veterans and their families that voting is important, while simultaneously helping anyone who needs assistance to navigate the registration process.
Let's start with some bad news: According to a survey conducted by the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) in 2020, active-duty military members were 14% less likely to be registered to vote and 27% less likely to have actually voted than their civilian counterparts. The survey controlled for demographics such as age, gender and race, so the data compares similar communities.
To those of us in the military community, these statistics are deeply saddening. Families like ours directly experience the outcome of elections at all levels -- from how military kids get welcomed into their local schools, to how our family's health care gets funded and delivered. Our community is full of voices that deserve to be heard, but oftentimes red tape gets in the way.
The No. 1 barrier military voters faced in 2020 was international mail delays, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These delays often prevented overseas voters from returning their mail-in ballots by their states' deadlines. Given the continued global supply chain struggles we see, this is important for voters to keep in mind this year, too.
If your state requires you to cast your absentee ballot through the mail, make sure you return it as early as possible. Also, if you have access to a printer, you can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to request that your blank ballot arrive by email so you can send it back without delay.
Military life comes with a lot of complicated residency questions, and that's where our coalition comes in. We're available year-round to answer questions and point military-connected voters to the right place. Our organizations each post about election deadlines so our members can stay on top of their registrations. Additionally, on March 15, we're hosting a virtual Q&A for military-connected voters in which we will touch on frequent pain points and answer community questions live. You can register to attend here.
Here's some good news to leave you with: Resources can make a difference! When military voters accessed voting resources in 2020, the FVAP survey found they were "significantly more likely" to successfully cast their ballot. This could mean they either visited the FVAP website or worked with their local installation's Voting Assistance Officer (VAO). Resources -- like those our organizations are committed to sharing -- can make a difference.
That's why we're shouting from the rooftops: Let's get our voices heard! Make sure you're ready to vote this year. Together, we can boost our community's voice in government.