By CAPT Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USNR*
Q: I am a career soldier in the U.S. Army. I vote in Vermont by absentee ballot every chance I get. Vermont requires that I copy the archaic “Freedman's Oath” on my Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) each time that I request an absentee ballot. This is a real nuisance, and there is not room on the form for the oath. I took an oath of allegiance to the United States when I enlisted and each time I re-enlisted. I think that Congress should outlaw burdensome requirements like Vermont's. What do you think?
A: Fortunately, Congress recently did exactly what you propose. “Each State shall … if the State requires an oath or affirmation to accompany any document under this subchapter, use the standard oath prescribed by the Presidential designee under section 1973ff(b)(7) of this title.” Title 42, United States Code, section 1973ff-1(a)(5) [42 U.S.C. 1973ff-1(a)(5)]. “The Presidential designee shall … (7) prescribe a standard oath for use with any document under this subchapter affirming that a material misstatement of fact in the completion of such a document may constitute grounds for conviction for perjury.” [42 U.S.C. 1973ff(b)(7).]
The presidential designee has accomplished this task. The new FPCA form incorporates the standard oath. Henceforth, if your town clerk refuses to process your completed FPCA because it does not contain the “Freedman's Oath,” your town clerk will be violating federal law.
Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution is called the “Supremacy Clause.” It provides that a federal statute overrides a conflicting state statute, or even a state constitution.
Q: Who is the “presidential designee?”
A: On June 8, 1988, President Reagan signed Executive Order 12642, 53 Federal Register 21975. That Executive Order remains in effect.
Section 1 of the Executive Order designates the secretary of defense as the “presidential designee” for purposes of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), 42 U.S.C. 1973ff et seq. Section 2 of the Executive Order authorizes the secretary of defense to delegate UOCAVA functions, responsibilities, powers, authority, and discretion to any person or persons within DOD. The secretary has delegated these matters to the director of DOD's Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). The current FVAP Director is Ms. Polli Brunelli. Telephone 800-438-VOTE or DSN 425-1584. E-mail Polli.Brunelli@fvap.ncr.gov
The best way to reach Captain Wright is by e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org.