The Commonwealth of Virginia has a long and storied history of military service. From the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, Virginian has a proud tradition of military service and has some of the oldest military installations in the United States.
Currently, Virginia is home to 21 military installations and has more than 88,000 residents serving in the Armed Forces (active duty, Reserves, and/or National Guard) and more than 100,000 military dependents. It also is home to more than 800,000 veterans including 1,073 service members who were wounded in action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
With so many young men and women deployed around the world, Virginia has been a leader in protecting the rights of military voters and finding innovative solutions to meet their voting needs. That leadership was first evident in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks when Virginia became one of the first states to send blank ballots electronically to deploying military voters. Those efforts have continued over the years and have helped thousands of service members to receive their absentee ballots on time.
That leadership has been spearheaded most recently by Governor McDonnell and the Virginia State Board of Elections. Over the last few years, the Governor and the State Board of Elections have worked closely with the Virginia General Assembly to create legislative solutions for our men and women in uniform. Those solutions have included the requirement to mail absentee ballots at least 45-day days before an election. Virginia also joined six other states and the District of Columbia in adopting model legislation to standardize and improve military voting.
Most recently, the Virginia State Board of Elections has been developing and analyzing mobile voting solutions for all military voters including those with severe combat injuries. As part of that effort, the State Board of Elections has partnered with the Virginia Department of Military Affairs to study the feasibility of mobile voting technology at Virginia-based military units and local veteran hospitals. In 2012, the Commonwealth received a grant of $1.8 million dollars from the Department of Defense to further develop and study those solutions.
In the ten years following terror’s attack on democracy, Virginia has fortified the rights of the defenders of democracy to vote across an increasingly varied range of military circumstances including disabilities, distance and remote locations. There is no doubt that Virginia will continue to make military service members and their families a top priority in the years to come.