Monday, February 6, 2012

Implausible Excuse

A local newspaper reporter wrote that a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Representative in Congress didn't vote in most of the elections that were held over the past eleven years. The candidate admitted the charge and seemed to go even further by saying that he has never voted in any primary election or in most local elections. About the only time he votes, it seems, is in national general elections, and maybe not even in all of them.

A lot of people don't vote in primaries, so the candidate probably wouldn't take much of a hit just for not voting. But the reason he gave for not voting raises some very serious questions. He said that he did not vote because there is an “unwritten code” that says military people shouldn't vote in primaries because they should be non-partisan.

Odd. This candidate just a couple of days earlier was telling a roomful of Democratic activists that he expected to win the primary because all the military personnel at the Great Lakes Naval Station in North Chicago, which is in his district, would vote for him. His literature boasts of his endorsements from military buddies. And yet he tells the newspapers that military people, himself included, don't vote in primaries.

The candidate's claim that there is an “unwritten code” not to vote is dubious. The U.S. Department of Defense directive on the Federal Voting Assistance Program says that all military personnel are encouraged to vote in local, state, and national elections. Every election judge knows that there are special procedures which are strictly observed to assure that all ballots from military personnel, no matter where in the world they are stationed, will be counted. The U.S. Air Force, in which this candidate served, has an official policy document that they title a Voting Plan that encourages all personnel and their family members to vote in “all elections.” The Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard have similar official policies and plans. The Department of Veterans Affairs encourages all veterans to vote and gets disabled and hospitalized veterans help with voting if they need it.

If there is an “unwritten code” that contradicts official, written government policy and discourages people from voting, it would have been this candidate's duty as a military officer to expose it. He didn't.

The candidate talks as if the “unwritten code” is pervasive in the military. If he is correct, it seems odd that we never heard about this pernicious code before. Not in the highly-contested primaries leading up to the Bush/Kerry election. Not in the contentious Bush/Gore election primaries. Not in the hot Obama/McCain election primaries. We didn't hear about this anti-American “unwritten code” until an inexperienced candidate needed an excuse for not having voted.

Somehow this candidate seems not to have learned the lesson that most voters have learned from a long series of scandals: all too often candidates get into more trouble trying to cover up their errors than they would have if they had simply owned up to them.

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