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.
- 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:
- Register by the deadline in their state of residence.
- Complete the Federal Post Card Application, which allows service members to vote abroad.
- Receive a ballot, fill it out and send it back. Emergency ballots are available if a proper ballot is not received in time.
- 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.
- Postage can be extremely difficult to come by when deployed, as can receiving and sending mail while on a ship or in a combat zone.
- This often leads to military ballots getting to service members or back to precincts too late to be counted.
- A lack of connection to stateside news can also leave deployed voters uninformed on candidates, especially in local elections, where coverage is very centralized.
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