Samuel F. Wright

Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Director, Service Members Law Center
(800) 809-9448, ext. 730
Email: swright@roa.org
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Law Review 11108

LAW REVIEW 11108

December 2011

Tennessee Secretary of State Goes the Extra Mile for Military Voters

By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)

7.0—Military Voting Rights

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is going the extra mile to ensure that all Tennessee counties have absentee ballots printed and ready to mail by the 45th day preceding Election Day, so that those who serve our country in uniform, as well as their voting-age family members, will have time to receive their ballots, mark them, and return them on time to be counted, no matter where the service of our country takes them.  In an e-mail that he personally sent to me at 10:21 pm on December 13, 2011,Hargett assured me that the ballots will go out in a timely manner for all three 2012 Election Days in his state.

Secretary Hargett realizes the importance of votes from our servicemen and women. In 2010, Secretary Hargett supervised his first general election. During that year, all 95 Tennessee counties met the 45-day standard for absentee voting. This election year will be no exception to Secretary Hargett’s commitment to military voting rights. On March 6, Tennessee will conduct its presidential primary, and Secretary Hargett promised me that the military and overseas ballots will go out by January 21.  Tennessee will conduct its general primary on August 2, and Secretary Hargett again promised me that the ballots will go out by June 18.  He also assured me that ballots for the November 6 general election will go out by September 22. 

For Secretary Hargett, interest in the armed forces is in the genes.  He is the son of Major General Gus Hargett, the immediate past Adjutant General of Tennessee and President of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).  NGAUS is one of ROA’s sister organizations in The Military Coalition.

Readers, please work on the other 49 Chief State Election Officials (CSEOs) and the 7,500 Local Election Officials (LEOs).  Most CSEOs and LEOs are themselves elected officials—they will listen to you.  Ask your CSEO and your LEO to ensure that absentee ballots go out to overseas military personnel by the 45th day before Election Day, as now explicitly required by federal law.  See 42 U.S.C. 1973ff-1(a)(8)(A).  If your county or state misses this 45-day deadline, for whatever reason, please let me know.  You can reach me at 800-809-9448, ext. 730, or SWright@roa.org. 

Time, distance, and military regulations preclude military personnel from speaking for themselves on this issue, to protest their frequent disenfranchisement.  It is incumbent upon those of us who have already served to speak for them, and to contact CSEOs and LEOs.