The PJ Tatler

2014 Military Voting Rights Hang in the Balance — Now

PJ Media has led the way covering military voting issues over the last two federal election cycles. Usually, America pays attention to the disenfranchisement of military voters the last few months before an election, but Americans and members of Congress should pay attention right now. Decisions now being made at the Pentagon by top brass, including Undersecretary Jennifer Wright, will determine whether military voters in 2014 get to vote and to participate. The Pentagon is preparing to hire a new director of the office responsible for helping military voters.

The Pentagon office in charge of military voting (FVAP) has been an embarrassment over the last two election cycles. For example, federal law requires every single military installation to have a voting assistance office to help servicemembers vote. Has the Pentagon complied with this law? Of course not. A Defense Department inspector general report found that fewer than half of the installations provide the mandated service.

Undersecretary Wright

Undersecretary Wright

As I note here, “Will Military Voters Get a New FVAP or Stale FVAP?“:

What Undersecretary Jennifer Wright and other Pentagon leaders do in the next few months will determine if the administration finally complies with a law passed in 2009, and whether military voters get a meaningful opportunity to participate in the next election. Actual participation of military voters in the 2010 and 2012 election, as measured by cast ballots, was a joke. Prisoners in Vermont participated at higher rates than the enlisted serving overseas.

The problems at FVAP are a caricature of government mismanagement:

Leadership at FVAP has focused entirely on bureaucratic nonsense, trying to look good instead of be good.  For example, a management consultant paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by FVAP advised staff to, “make Paddy (Paddy McGuire, Deputy Director of Election Official Assistance) look good, and you’ll make Bob (Bob Carey, former Director of FVAP) look good. That is all you have to do.” Apparently, FVAP staff took this advice to heart, as members of Paddy McGuire’s Election Official Assistance Team frequently obstruct projects by refusing tasks, making a game out of getting others to do their work. No surprise that one of Mr. McGuire’s new ideas was to hire a former employee of his, now a friend and consultant. One might wonder what kind of consultant would be eager to be paid thousands of dollars plus expenses to conduct a staff retreat titled, “How to Get Along with Paddy.

Paddy McGuire

Paddy McGuire

Paddy McGuire, as you could have guessed, is a partisan Democrat who just happens to be burrowed into the Pentagon to “help” military voters:

Consider this quote from an LA Times article in 2000, “McGuire is a political hack. This is not a title to be conferred lightly. In political country, hack is an honorific, a term of respect earned along with the frequent flier miles.” McGuire has hired three employees as Program Analysts since 2010, and promoted one to a higher status as Policy Analyst. Two were Democrats, one a youth activist, that one promoted to Policy Analyst. FVAP should not be McGuire’s personal fiefdom, where he can hire young, inexperienced staff who mostly just make him look good, adore him, and serve as party loyalists. Part of the problem at FVAP is there has never been a cadre of full time employees with election administration experience. The hapless Paddy McGuire served as a de facto political appointee. Paddy McGuire, in his revealing admission to the LA Times (Aug. 13, 2000), stated his qualification for a patronage job at the Oregon Fish and Game Department as having fishing and hunting licenses. Having someone with election administration experience at FVAP is important, as FVAP’s mission is to make certain military and overseas voters can vote. In order to vote, one must register. Thus registration and voting need to be understood by any election administrator, something FVAP just doesn’t seem to understand. One could make a case for having all positions at FVAP require election administration experience. One could also make a case for having members of the military serving as staff at FVAP.

The biggest problem with military voting is that the Pentagon has resisted implementing the law requiring military assistance at all installations. Following the law, and also registering military voters at intake upon transfer to a new assignment, is the way to fix the military voting problem. Having partisan Democrats running FVAP hurts military voting and ensures those solutions won’t be implemented. Will Republicans in Congress make excuses for the mismanagement, or conduct oversight? What happens remains to be seen. We’ll learn a lot about 2014 military voting rights soon when the Pentagon names the new FVAP director.