Samuel F. Wright

Captain, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
Director, Service Members Law Center
(800) 809-9448, ext. 730
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Law Review 1213


February 2012

Military Voting in Presidential Caucuses—Part 2

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

7.0—Military Voting Rights

On Saturday, February 4, 2012, Nevada held a presidential caucus involving the four remaining Republican presidential candidates.  On that same day, the New York Times reported that the Nevada Republican Party had made a special accommodation for the estimated 300 Orthodox Jewish Republicans in Nevada.

Orthodox Jews consider it wrong to engage in secular activity (like voting) on the Sabbath, which runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  For everybody else, the caucuses were over well before sundown on Saturday.  The state party approved of the holding of special caucuses on Saturday evening, so that Orthodox Jews could vote without violating their interpretation of the Fourth Commandment.

I approve wholeheartedly of making a special accommodation for religion.  No one should be required to choose between giving up the right to vote and violating the dictates of one’s conscience. 

At the same time, I believe that a special accommodation should also be made for those serving our country in uniform. I argue for making an accommodation for the 16,737 military personnel and 8,844 military spouses and dependents of voting age who claim Nevada as their legal residence.  Because of their service to our country, they cannot come home to vote in a caucus or election.  In a caucus, there generally is no opportunity to cast an absentee ballot.  In this system, the voter must appear in person and publicly state his or her preference; there is no secret ballot.

Later this year, at the Republican Convention in Tampa and the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, the delegates will establish the rules for the 2016 nominating process.  I urge the two major parties to establish rules requiring the state parties to provide military personnel and family members the opportunity to participate in a caucus without showing up in person.  If a state party cannot figure out a way to give absent military personnel and their families a real opportunity to vote in a caucus, then the state should be required to go to a primary, with absentee voting, as the majority of the states now proceed.

Readers:  Will you be attending one of the two major party conventions as a delegate, or do you know someone who will be?  Please help me raise this issue.  Those who serve our nation in uniform, and those who accompany spouses or parents who serve, should be given the opportunity to participate in the nomination as well as the election of candidates for president and other offices.  After all, were it not for their sacrifices, none of us would have the opportunity to vote in free elections.