You can forget about the impact of the military vote in the 2012 presidential elections. The reason: servicemembers aren't applying for absentee ballots and the Pentagon isn't doing much to help them.
"This is immensely disappointing," said Eric Eversole, founder of the Military Voter Protection Project. "Election Day 2012 could result in an all-time historic low for military voter participation."
Eversole's group Tuesday released a report showing that applications by service members in states with high numbers of military residents is in the very low percentages. In Virginia, just 1,746 of 126,251 active military and their spouses, or 1.4 percent, have requested absentee ballots. In North Carolina, the percentage is 1.7 percent, in Alaska 5.9 percent, Ohio 3.3 percent.
And it's a continuation of a bad trend. Eversole told Secrets that in 2008, 30 percent of the military voted. That dropped to 15 percent in 2010. By comparison, 60 percent of the general population voted in 2008 and 40 percent two years later.
Because service members are mostly away from their home state while in the military, about two-thirds must vote via absentee ballots. Getting those ballots requires an application and many states of early deadlines for requests.
Eversole blames the military for the fall-off in those requesting absentee ballots. He said that the Pentagon is not urging service members to vote and he added that the military has yet to implement provisions of the MOVE Act to provide absentee ballot applications to military members when they arrive at new duty stations.
"That law should have increased military voter participation, not decreased it," he said.
Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde told Secrets that the department is aware of the report and is "committed to facilitating the absentee registration process so that all service members and overseas Americans have the opportunity to participate in the election process. We make resources available to the greatest extent possible, communicating the availability of these resources via myriad media."
Eversole was careful not to assign any political motive for the Pentagon's inaction. But a low military turnout could help President Obama who is less popular among veterans, though some reports suggested that younger service members prefer the president.