VA military voting rights and one obscure vote by Creigh Deeds

On October 15, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Williams ruled that Virginia violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act by failing to mail over 2000 absentee military and overseas ballots in time to be counted in the 2008 Federal Election.

Judge Williams wrote in his ruling,

“The right to vote means a right to cast a ballot that will be counted.” As a result, the court held that Virginia’s failure to mail absentee ballots to its military and overseas voters sufficiently in advance of the election “offended these voters’ prized right to vote in a federal election[.]”

An article summarizing the decision can be found here.

The right to vote means a right to cast a ballot that will be counted. A Powerful statement.

Virginia is home to over 700,000 active duty and retired military members. In 2000, it ranked as the top state with respect to this figure. Most of the active duty service members came by orders and their spouses and families came with them, making Virginia their homes.

In early 2004, an anomaly in Virginia residency requirements came to light through a very liberal registrar of voters that military spouses, technically, could only register to vote if they could swear that they would be living in Virginia for an unlimited amount of time. We move when we are told to move. We act as the shield and sword on the home front and the majority of us try to make the communities in which we live a better place for those families that follow. We just didn’t have the right to register to vote in the state we called home.

This began a protracted battle between Federal and state officials. Were we covered under UOCAVA or were we not? There were no answers and in an article done by the Military Times, this particular registrar stated that it was a federal issue not a state issue. At the time, the Federal government was viewing it as a state’s rights issue it was a frustrating ooda loop with misinformation being thrown about.

Finally, Delegate Mark Cole introduced HB138 to exempt military spouses and dependents from the archaic requirement of swearing unlimited amount of time for residency.

The House bill was referred to and passed by House Committee on Special Privileges and Elections and then on to a House vote, passing 87-11 (the eleven votes were all Democrats by the way). Once passed in the House, the bill went on to the Senate Privileges and Election Committee on which Creigh Deeds is a member. I was at the hearing to testify if needed. During the hearing, I don’t recall Deeds saying much of interest and the bill was referred unanimously for a Senate vote. And this is where it gets interesting with Creigh Deeds.

On referring the bill from Committee for vote, Deeds voted FOR the bill.
On the first read through, Deeds voted FOR the bill.
On the second and final read through, Deeds voted AGAINST the final bill. In fact, the bill HR138ER had overwhelming bipartisan support with the exception of Creigh Deeds and one other Democrat Senator.

When crunch time came, Deeds let military spouses know exactly where he stood on allowing them to register to vote in the Commonwealth.

The recent ruling on absentee ballots for military and the fight to give military dependents the right to register to vote in Virginia highlights a pervasive attitude about Virginia’s Democrats and the military family – we will say we support you but eh, not so much, when it comes down to the wire.

Keeping in mind the judge’s quote of The right to vote means a right to cast a ballot that will be counted and with Virginia home to such a large population of military families is Creigh Deeds the man we want running the Commonwealth? He didn’t even want military dependents voting an election cycle ago. Why would you believe he would protect the rights of a large portion of the state population now?