NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Don't Ask To Vote At Military Installations

December 21, 2000

Democrats shouted that "every vote must count" for six weeks in Florida; but last week, Senate Democrats quietly strangled a bill to allow polling places to remain open on U.S. military bases, asserts a Wall Street Journal editorial.

  • The bill, which passed the House in October by 297 to 114, would have blocked a 1999 Pentagon directive that no military facility could be used as a polling place in the 2000 election.
  • Congress passed legislation temporarily staying the order, but a permanent fix was needed to clarify matters.
  • The Clinton Administration opposed the bill, despite letters from 17 state election officials that the directive would "greatly inconvenience" voters in remote locations.

The original Pentagon directive warned military commanders "to not allow their installation facilities to be used for polling or voting sites. Locating polling or voting places on a military installation may result in conduct which could inadvertently violate one or more statutory prohibitions."

Pentagon general counsel Douglas Dworkin noted the need for a "policy of maintaining strict separation between the military and political process."

Dworkin said, "Placement of voting sites on military installations in which 'troops or armed men' are likely to come into close contact with voters is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of maintaining separation between the military and politics."

The bill passed the House, but Senate rules required "unanimous consent" from every member to bring the bill to a vote in the post-election session, and apparently some Democratic senators planned to object.

Source: Editorial, "Democratic Votes More Equal?" Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2000.

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