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Military Voting Rates at All-Time Low -- Shame on Us

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- Imagine, for a moment, that you work for Apple Inc. It's time for the company to appoint a new CEO, and you and your co-workers get to handpick your boss. All you have to do is check a box next to the name of your favorite candidate and mail it to the company. You'd do it, wouldn't you? According to statistics, most of you wouldn't.

We members of the military have a chance to pick our boss -- a commander in chief instead of a CEO -- every four years. But surprisingly, military voter participation rates are anemic and have been for a long time. Some experts are predicting the military will log its worst participation rates ever this year.

According to the Military Voter Protection Project, a nonpartisan group working to get out the military vote, only 30 percent of service members voted in 2008, compared to 60 percent of the general population. The group predicts the number of us voting in 2012 will drop by as much as a third.

The general population must wonder why we're willing to fight to protect their right to vote, but we can't be bothered to do the same.

"Old Blood and Guts," General George S. Patton, would turn over in his grave if he knew. He once said, "The soldier is also a citizen." Today's soldiers seem to have forgotten that voting is not only a privilege of citizenship, but an obligation.

Military voting advocates make excuses for us. The process is too confusing, they say. We can't possibly be expected to update our voter registration information every time we move, or remember to request absentee ballots.

I say the Air Force we serve doesn't need excuses. If we can figure out how to successfully launch multi-million dollar rockets with billion dollar payloads, we can manage to cast a ballot. If our spouses can move mountains to get our families settled in new homes time and again, voting should be a breeze.

These days, everything we need to know to vote we can find online:

-- State election officials have created a site, www.canivote.org, where you simply follow the links to your state or county to find out if you're registered to vote.

-- You can register and request an absentee ballot (roughly two-thirds of us are absentee voters) at www.overseasvotefoundation.org.

-- www.Votesmart.org is a nonpartisan site that provides voters with key information on issues and candidates.

But don't wait. Even though Election Day isn't until Nov. 6, the deadline to register is October in most states. Some states, like Arkansas, require that voters request their absentee ballots no later than Oct. 7.

This year, let's do our small part here at Vandenberg to demonstrate to the American public that we airmen are not only citizens, but citizens who believe voting is a duty that shouldn't be shirked.