I absolute­ly can­not think of a log­i­cal expla­na­tion for this, oth­er than what one offi­cer said—it’s a whol­ly par­ti­san thing. 

The Pen­ta­gon does­n’t want you to vote overseas
A Web site main­tained by the Depart­ment of Defense is block­ing access to non-mil­i­tary Amer­i­cans. Could it be wor­ried that expa­tri­ates are lean­ing toward Kerry?

Sept. 21, 2004  |  On Mon­day, the Inter­na­tion­al Her­ald Tri­bune report­ed that the Pen­ta­gon is restrict­ing inter­na­tion­al access to the Web site for the Fed­er­al Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram, the offi­cial gov­ern­ment agency that helps Amer­i­cans liv­ing abroad reg­is­ter to vote in the Novem­ber election.

Accord­ing to the IHT, Amer­i­cans who con­nect to the Inter­net using one of sev­er­al for­eign Inter­net ser­vice providers have report­ed dif­fi­cul­ty log­ging in to the vot­ing-assis­tance site. The Pen­ta­gon con­firmed that it is block­ing traf­fic from these ISPs—which pro­vide Inter­net ser­vice in 25 countries—but it declined to say why.

News of the Pen­tagon’s traf­fic-block­ing imme­di­ate­ly aroused alarm and sus­pi­cion among vot­ing-rights activists, and it’s not hard to see why. For the 6 mil­lion Amer­i­cans liv­ing abroad, sign­ing up to vote at home is a daunt­ing task, a Byzan­tine process that dif­fers for each cit­i­zen depend­ing on his or her home state and even home county.

Over the past year, the Fed­er­al Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram Web site has been wide­ly adver­tised all over the for­eign press as the way for Amer­i­cans to get help on how to vote in the upcom­ing elec­tion. The site, which is main­tained by the Depart­ment of Defense, is a non­par­ti­san, com­pre­hen­sive, and offi­cial clear­ing­house for vot­ing reg­is­tra­tion infor­ma­tion. Now that it’s been put off-lim­its to many Amer­i­cans just before reg­is­tra­tion dead­lines kick in, activists fear that Amer­i­cans will be unfair­ly barred from vot­ing this year.

Why would the Pen­ta­gon do this? Offi­cials at the Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram have told some Amer­i­cans liv­ing abroad that the blocked ISPs were havens for “hack” attacks against the vot­ing site; the Pen­ta­gon had no choice but to block them in order to keep the vot­ing site secure from attack. But that expla­na­tion is extreme­ly fishy, say crit­ics who see some­thing more nefar­i­ous at work. The Defense Depart­ment main­tains all man­ner of sen­si­tive Web sites — for instance, MyPay, which allows mil­i­tary per­son­nel to man­age their com­pen­sa­tion online — and it’s had no prob­lem pro­tect­ing those from hack­ers while keep­ing them open for legit­i­mate uses.

“This is a com­plete­ly par­ti­san thing,” one Defense Depart­ment vot­ing offi­cial told Salon. The offi­cial, who asked to remain anony­mous for fear of being fired, is one of the many peo­ple in the depart­ment assigned to help both uni­formed mil­i­tary per­son­nel as well as Amer­i­can civil­ians reg­is­ter to vote. The offi­cial described the Pen­ta­gon as extreme­ly dili­gent in its efforts to reg­is­ter sol­diers sta­tioned overseas—for instance, vot­ing assis­tance offi­cers have been told by the depart­ment to per­son­al­ly meet with all of the sol­diers in their units in order to help them reg­is­ter. But the depart­ment has ignored its man­date to help over­seas civil­ians who want to vote, the offi­cial said.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, polit­i­cal poll­sters believe that uni­formed mil­i­tary per­son­nel, espe­cial­ly mil­i­tary offi­cers, lean toward Repub­li­cans in their vot­ing habits; Amer­i­can civil­ians who live abroad, mean­while, are par­tic­u­lar­ly pro­gres­sive. One recent Zog­by sur­vey, for exam­ple, showed that vot­ers with pass­ports sup­port­ed Ker­ry over Bush by a mar­gin of 55 to 33 percent.

The official—a self-described Demo­c­rat who adheres to require­ments of non-par­ti­san­ship as a vot­ing officer—could see no expla­na­tion oth­er than pure polit­i­cal trick­ery in the Pen­tagon’s deci­sion to block the FVAP Web site. “There is no way in hell that this is not a delib­er­ate par­ti­san attempt to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly dis­en­fran­chise a large Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ing bloc,” the offi­cial said.

It’s easy to see why the Bush admin­is­tra­tion might be wor­ried about the prospect of huge num­bers of Amer­i­can civil­ians liv­ing abroad exer­cis­ing their right to vote. In efforts to reg­is­ter Amer­i­cans liv­ing over­seas, the offi­cial has come across a host of peo­ple who say they’re sign­ing up specif­i­cal­ly to has­ten Bush’s defeat. “I’ve had so many old peo­ple com­ing to reg­is­ter say, ‘I haven’t vot­ed in such a long time,’ or ‘The last time I vot­ed in an elec­tion was when Kennedy ran, but we’ve got to get rid of this man. This man makes me ashamed to be an American.’ ”

In order to help Amer­i­cans liv­ing over­seas to get around the Pen­tagon’s block of the FVAP site, the Vot­er Ver­i­fied Foun­da­tion has launched a proxy site here. Will Doher­ty, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of Ver­i­fied Vot­ing, said he hoped that the proxy would pres­sure the Pen­ta­gon into drop­ping its access ban. 

Cur­rent Mood: 🙁wor­ried
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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