One of the most sacred values the military protects is the right to vote, retired Air Force Col. Mike Turner says, so he is working to ensure the men and women of the military are practicing this right. He is the executive director of the nonpartisan Military Officers Association of America’s Military Family Initiative. The group recently received a grant to fund a military voter education program. “There is nothing that affects a military family’s quality of life more than the quality of people they elect to office,” Turner said. “Your vote is just the single most important manifestation of your democratic rights as a citizen of this democracy.” The Military Family Initiative received $218,300 from the Democracy Fund for the military voter education program.
Ryan Parsell, El Paso County’s chief deputy clerk and recorder, said educating and informing military voters is especially relevant for El Paso County.
“Whether active duty or retired, El Paso County is home to a huge military population, and we really feel it’s important for those men and women that are serving overseas in combat zones and other areas to have the opportunity to select the leaders that will, in turn, decide whether or not they go to combat,” Parsell said.
In the 2014 general election, El Paso County had 4,786 military and overseas voters registered, Parsell said. Of the military and overseas voters registered in that election, 1,131, or about 24 percent, went through the absentee voter process and returned their ballots, Parsell said.
“We do a lot of outreach to those people that would fall in that category, but, having said that, I don’t think there is any harm in another group wanting to build upon those efforts to make sure those people have an opportunity to vote,” Parsell said.