Opinion: Vets: Don’t limit Ga. voting rights

U.S. Post Office strikes absentee ballot deal ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff race
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U.S. Post Office strikes absentee ballot deal ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff race

Veterans deserve better than continued attacks on our democracy here at home

As veterans of our armed forces, we are among the generations of Americans who have served to protect our freedoms. Over our combined decades of service, we and our fellow service members put our lives on the line in defense of the ideals we hold dear.

One of the most fundamental rights we fought to protect is the freedom to vote. But right now, this fundamental right, as well as the integrity of our election system as a whole, faces new threats from right here at home.

Our state legislators are working to rapidly restrict popular, time-tested voting methods like early and absentee voting relied on by voters across party lines -- policies that would have a disparate impact on voters of color, and on military voters.

Like many veterans and active-duty members of the armed forces, we voted absentee in this past election and in many previous elections; it is familiar. We mailed in our ballots while we trained at military bases and when we served overseas so that we could participate in our democracy. And after we have completed our service, the safest way to vote for many veterans to vote is from our homes using an absentee ballot.

Approximately 80% of overseas military personnel who voted in 2018 while stationed abroad or away from their voting residence did so by mail. And an analysis of Secretary of State data and national modeling by Secure Democracy found that more than 1.8 million military and veteran voters nationwide voted by absentee ballot – including 68,000 right here in Georgia.

It is crucial that we count the votes of our service members and veterans — and all Georgians who vote absentee. But Georgia lawmakers want to do the opposite.

They’re trying to add barriers to absentee and early, in-person voting by limiting the hours we can vote and imposing new, burdensome ID mandates. These changes don’t make our elections more secure. Instead, they make it harder for veterans like us to cast our ballots. It also makes it harder for seniors, rural voters who may live 50 miles or more from a voting location, voters of color, and voters with disabilities to vote.

We fought to defend our country and have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of lost democratic norms. We all support steps to further bolster election integrity in Georgia and across the nation, but efforts to restrict our freedom to vote actually rip away at the fabric of our civil society.

Our leaders shouldn’t be trying to make it harder for any person -- but especially veterans -- to vote. Instead, they should be working to ensure that our democracy finally -- and fully -- includes and works for everyone. Those are the values we put our lives on the line for.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Barbara Balducci
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Barbara Balducci

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Barbara Ledom-Balducci is a retired 28-year U.S. Air Force veteran. She also retired as a Department of the Air Force employee. Georgia has been her home for more than 17 years and she is an active member with progressive veterans advocacy group, Common Defense.

David Dubin
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David Dubin

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

David Dubin is a disabled Vietnam combat veteran. A 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, he was stationed in Europe and Korea before retiring in 1995. He is also a retired instructional designer, college professor, and active member of Common Defense.

Janice Jamison
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Janice Jamison

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Janice Jamison is a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran. She served 8 years on active duty as a senior intelligence operations analyst. Janice has been a veteran advocate and organizer in Georgia for almost 10 years. She is currently the program manager of the Veterans Organizing Institute.

David Mujica
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David Mujica

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

David Mujica is a Purple Heart U.S. Marine Corps veteran (1988-2012) who served in Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. During his service he was honored with a Bronze Star Medal. Currently, David is a small business owner in Georgia and an active advocate with Common Defense.

Cole Knapper
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Cole Knapper

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Chaplain Cole Knapper is a decorated, post-9/11 U.S. Army veteran from Athens. During her military career, she deployed on four combat tours of duty in support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, was twice awarded the prestigious Bronze Star Medal, and earned a Combat Infantryman’s Badge almost a decade before women were allowed to serve in combat roles. She is a longtime member of Common Defense and an advocate for Georgia veterans.