Testimony of “Military Voting Rights USA” to the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee of the Republican National Committee. December 9th 2009
We wish to convey our thanks to the Committee for allowing us to testify on behalf of “Military Voting Rights USA.” The men and women who serve in our armed forces appreciate the efforts that the Republican National Committee, its Members, and State Parties around the nation have made on behalf of military voters.
We appreciate the adoption by the 2008 Republican Convention of RNC Rule 15(c)7 that includes specific consideration of the rights of military voters to participate in the Presidential selection process. We look forward in 2011 and 2012 to further changes in state and national party Rules that will guarantee the rights of military voters to participate in the Republican Presidential selection process.
We appreciate the support of Republican Members of Congress like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of CA who led the fight for an express mail system that could get overseas military ballots home in 4 days, not the three weeks currently required. We are disappointed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose, instead, to cater to the postal unions and give the postal service a monopoly on delivery of overseas military ballots that will require 1 week delivery instead of the 4 day delivery that open competition among all express mail providers could have achieved. We are disappointed that Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi put the interests of unions ahead of military voters which will result in disenfranchising, for nearly half of the last week of the election, of soldiers who are risking their lives for our nation overseas.
We mention these issues because the Republican Party has the opportunity to go into the 2010 and 2012 elections as the undisputed champion of military voting rights.
Your job, as Members of the RNC's Temporary Delegate Selection Committee is to come to agreement or at least a near consensus on how to improve the Presidential selection calendar. In our view one key goal of your work should be to ensure that as many Republican voters, in as many states as possible have a meaningful role in that process.
We would give the same advice to Democrats with regard to their party, if asked.
We believe that encouraging participation by as many of each party's voters in that party's presidential selection process as possible is good for that party and good for the nation. We believe that the more of a party's voters, including military voters, who participate, the more likely it is that the party's candidate will be the one who will best reflect that party's principles and will be the candidate best able to present them most persuasively to the voters necessary for victory.
That is why your work is so important.
We suggest that your first principle should be, "Do no harm."
Each state now makes its own decision about whether to hold a primary or a caucus to select Presidential delegates and bind their Presidential preference at the Convention. While we favor primaries over caucuses because primaries encourage participation by military voters, our goal today is not to urge you to favor primaries over caucuses. Our goal today is to urge you not to force states, against their will, to replace their primaries with caucuses.
How might this happen?
If you adopt a detailed mandatory primary calendar that requires each state to hold its primary in a narrow time window, there is the significant possibility that a state's legislature, which may be controlled by Democrats, will not cooperate. If a state's legislature will not schedule a government-funded primary on a date acceptable to the RNC, a state would have three choices.
The first option:
Fund the primary itself, or with the financial assistance of the RNC. Republicans generally oppose unfunded federal mandates as simply tax increases imposed from Washington. But you may determine that it is not in the best use of your RNC donor's resources to divert funds from candidate support and get-out-the-vote efforts to funding a primary.
The second option:
Hold the primary on the legislature-scheduled but non-RNC sanctioned date and suffer the loss of one-half of the state's delegates. We understand your Committee does not have the authority to alter this penalty. Imposing it effectively disenfranchises half of the state's Republican voters. We expect that few states would willingly choose this option.
The third option:
Replace the state's primary with a caucus. This is the option that could most directly disenfranchise overseas military voters and other voters whose personal work, family, or health situation makes it impossible to participate in a caucus.
We encourage states to look for ways, perhaps via absentee or proxy voting, to make future caucuses accessible to overseas military voters, and others in a similarly disadvantaged situation. But Republican caucuses as they are now held do not yet have those features.
We believe that for 2012 the most important way to assure that military voters can participate fully in the Presidential selection process is to ensure that states who want to hold a primary are not discouraged from doing so by RNC rules. That is why it is so important that RNC Rules not force states against their will to replace their primary with a caucus.
The Republican National Committee is an extraordinary institution. It has a vital role in promoting limited government and individual freedom. But any group of 168 leaders, no matter how wise, should think carefully before taking an action that could lead to disenfranchising millions of Republican voters and overriding the views of thousands of local state party leaders in states across the nation.
The Republican Party believes in limited government. The Republican Party believes in empowering as many Republican voters as possible. The Republican Party believes that political power should come from the bottom up not from the top down.
If you keep these principles in mind when you make your recommendations to the RNC we are confident you will do an outstanding job.
Thank you for allowing us to testify.