National: Should soldiers’ votes get counted? That’s not as easy as you’d think. | The Washington Post
Americans want their soldiers to vote. But often they can’t. Despite absentee balloting, military personnel deployed overseas often just cannot participate in elections. For most of U.S. history, military personnel have not been able to vote. State laws and constitutions often specifically restricted military personnel from participating in the franchise. Attitudes about voting soldiers started to change when the Civil War called large numbers of citizens for military service—but action was tempered by partisan politics. The Civil War was the first time the United States had large numbers of soldiers deployed during a presidential election. Politicians of both parties were convinced that the army would vote for the commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. As a result, most states with Republican governors and legislatures passed laws enabling soldiers to vote, while most states led by Democrats did not. Those voting soldiers probably helped Abraham Lincoln in Maryland and influenced a few local elections in various states.