Nov 11, 2019 - Politics & Policy

The woes of military voting

Data: FairVote, Federal Voting Assistance Program; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FairVote, Federal Voting Assistance Program; Chart: Axios Visuals

While military voters may seem like an engaged bloc, they consistently turn out at lower rates than the general electorate.

By the numbers: According to data from the Federal Voting Assistance Program, active duty service members turned out at lower rates than the total general population in every recent election.

Civilian voters:

  • 2018: 49.6%
  • 2016: 60.1%
  • 2014: 36.7%
  • 2012: 58.2%
  • 2010: 41.0%

Active duty military voters:

  • 2018: 31%
  • 2016: 46%
  • 2014: 24%
  • 2012: 55%
  • 2010: 29%

The big picture: On the surface, military voting doesn't appear too different from the typical absentee voting process. According to USAGov, military members abroad looking to vote must:

  1. Register by the deadline in their state of residence.
  2. Complete the Federal Post Card Application, which allows service members to vote abroad.
  3. Receive a ballot, fill it out and send it back. Emergency ballots are available if a proper ballot is not received in time.
  4. Contact the state you're voting in to ensure your ballot arrived.

Between the lines: The demands of military lifestyle add some complexities to this process.

The bottom line: While a lack of turnout can often be dismissed as a lack of determination, it’s worth remembering that obstacles beyond a citizen’s control can be significant deterrents.

Go deeper: Military vets are setting a record in 2018

Go deeper