U.S. Bans Military Voting

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Patrick1978, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. Patrick1978 Gone Fishin'

    Mar 1, 2017
    In the late 1970's, the U.S. Congress passes a new law banning all military service members from voting in presidential elections, citing that it contradicts "civilian control over the military".
  2. Catsmate Well-Known Member

    Aug 10, 2008
    It's taked to the Supreme Court with rapidity and struck down. Whatever idiots passed the law, and any president who failed to veto it, suffer greatly in the next round of elections.
    Not least because in the USA the Federal government does not regulate voter eligibility, that is down to the states, hence such a law would be an infringement on the powers of the states.
    Given the protests in the early seventies over the disparity in minimum ages for conscription and voting expect manor protests, especially if conscription is still in place.
  3. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    President Carter, a former military man himself, vetos the legislation

    The subsequent electoral backlash causes Congress to cravenly run for cover, those who voted for it are whipped in the polls.

    Conscription, the Draft, was technically still in place as men were still required to register with the Selective Service System. No selection or induction has been made since the early 1970s. The voting block that will lead the lynch mob will be the veterans. The WWII veterans were still present enmass and politically active, the Viet Nam veterans were just a few years from becoming politically active. This is likely to tip them into mainstream politics; voting, lobbying, joining organizations earlier. It could rejuvenate the leadership of the stagnating veterans organizations & keep them near the top of groups the politicians must suck up to.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  4. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

    Apr 21, 2016
    Something like this could have been done with the earlier POD. It was the tradition in the nineteenth century that non-interference of officers in civilian politics extended to not voting. Of course that didn't stop former officers from often being elected to office. Not famously, though it should be, Zachary Taylor never cast a vote before his own election to President.

    But the first Congress could have made it an offense to vote in the UCMJ for the federal army and I don't think anyone would have thought it was a big deal. Path dependence means that it just stays in force. At the most, later on it would have been narrowed down to apply to only career federal regular army and navy servicemen, not conscripts or reservists.

    THe mass conscription implemented in 1940 changed Americans view of the military, and that has been slowly changing back after it ended.
  5. Patrick1978 Gone Fishin'

    Mar 1, 2017
    Maybe the anti-war protesters who treated the Vietnam vets horribly could've been in a much greater number then OTL and moved to influence the government to take steps to clamp down on service member rights?
  6. The-Artist-64 Life is a Funeral Banned

    Feb 11, 2017
    Such a move would probably garner a lot of accusations of left wing gerrymandering, and rightfully so considering that the military is traditionally thought of as predominantly conservative. Combine that with one big recession (pretty likely in the late '70s), and you have a civil war- or civil unrest at the very least- on your hands.
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  7. SsgtC Ready to Call it a Day

    May 14, 2017
    And then you very quickly see the Army and Marine Corps march on Washington with a lot of talk about how they took an oath to defend the Constitution from both foreign and DOMESTIC enemies...
  8. Patrick1978 Gone Fishin'

    Mar 1, 2017
    Which would certainly bring an end to civilian rule...
  9. GDIS Pathe Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2016
    Never gonna happen
  10. Temeraire Well-Known Member

    Jan 18, 2017
    Yeah... as others have said, I seriously don't see how this could work, especially not in the 70s. This is dead in the water, unless you have some serious PODs, like the armed forces acting as a 'state within the state', interfering in politics, etc.
  11. The Dornishman Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

    Jul 29, 2014
    Sunspear, Westeros
    How could Congress pass this? This isn't even skirting the bounds, it's blatantly unconstitutional. And anyone who sponsored it could expect a nasty outcome in their next election campaign.

    Why? Although this premise is honestly inconceivable, there's no way this bill would stick. As @Carl Schwamberger mentions above, President Carter himself would veto this and the next midterm elections would probably see a wave of new elected officials riding into power for taking a stand against the troop-hating Congress.

    And even if there was an attack of mass insanity in the US Congress and White House allowing this bill to pass, the Supreme Court could easily shoot it down on any number of grounds. This is the 1970's, restrictions on the franchise, especially for a highly-conspicuous and respected part of society (i.e. the military) are not going to go well.
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  12. Matt The Onion Knight Donor

    Mar 1, 2004
    The Garden State
    Slight correction, the UCMJ is a fairly modern construction. It replaced the Articles of War for the Army and Air Force, and the "Rocks and Shoals" for the Department of the Navy .
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  13. David T Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2007
    (1) Nitpick: There was no "UCJM" at the time of the First Congress. "On 30 June 1775, the Second Continental Congress established 69 Articles of War to govern the conduct of the Continental Army.

    "Effective upon its ratification in 1789, Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution provided that Congress has the power to regulate the land and naval forces. On 10 April 1806, the United States Congress enacted 101 Articles of War (which applied to both the Army and the Navy), which were not significantly revised until over a century later. The military justice system continued to operate under the Articles of War until 31 May 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice went into effect." http://www.ucmj.us/history-of-the-ucm

    (2) The biggest obstacle to military voting in the early days of the Republic was simply the reluctance to accept absentee voting of any kind, since it was feared this would lead to fraud:

    "The notion that American citizens living beyond the borders of the United States should be able to vote has not always been commonly held. It was generally assumed that voting occurred only in local precincts. A special town meeting of Hollis, New Hampshire, confronted this issue in December 1775 when a courier arrived with a letter from a group of soldiers. The men were away with the newly established Continental Army, fighting the British, and wanted their votes counted in a local election. While little is known of the details, the minutes of the meeting recorded that there was a dispute over whether to permit the proxy vote. While the decision of the council was to permit the votes to count "as if the men were present themselves," it was apparent that allowing absentee voting by soldiers was not uniformly accepted.2 Even in cases where citizens who were asking for absent voting rights were well known to local authorities, resistance to granting such rights remained. Accepting votes from citizens not physically present courted election fraud." https://books.google.com/books?id=5m_vCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT18

    (3) Nevertheless, any attempt by Congress to ban soldiers from voting would be unlikely because of the belief that qualifications for voting--in presidential as well as other elections--was a state matter.

    (4) In any event, the ACW would as in OTL make the issue of soldier voting a heated--and partisan--issue. If somehow any federal law had been enacted against soldiers voting, the Republican Congress would have repealed it then.
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  14. Dynasoar Yankee AeroSpace Pirate

    Aug 25, 2017
    Thousand Oaks, California
    I freely admit that I am not a constitutional scholar, nor have I ever played one on TV--But do I understand that states can set their own voting criteria for Federal elections? That California could, for example, franchise undocumented non-citizens and bar votes from serving US citizens in the military? If this is true, please don't tell our governor!

  15. Evan Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness!

    Oct 13, 2010
    Quiet Resistance, People's Republic of Cascadia
    Technically, yes.

    However, the Fourteenth Amendment says, "when the right to vote at any election... is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced..." In other words, for males above age 21, a state can only deny you the right to vote on the basis of (1) not being a citizen, or (2) being a criminal. If they do, their representation in the House of Representatives will be reduced as if the people to whom they denied the vote didn't live there. There will be no other punishment (except political), and even this has never been enforced.
  16. David T Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2007
    Unless prohibited by the Constitution--and that's a big "unless"--the answer is yes. (Disfranchising the military would undoubtedly be found unconstitutional as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, for example.)

    But that absent a violation of the Constitution, states set the qualifications seems clear from the language of the Constitution:

    Art. I, § 2:

    "the Electors [for Representatives] in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature."

    Amdt. XVII:

    "The electors [for Senators] in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures."

    As to presidential elections, the Constitution provides in Art. II, § 1, cl. 2. :

    "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors. . . ."

    Federalist No. 52 explicitly defended having different qualifications for voting for US Representatives in different states:

    "To have reduced the different qualifications in the different States to one uniform rule, would probably have been as dissatisfactory to some of the States as it would have been difficult to the convention. The provision made by the convention appears, therefore, to be the best that lay within their option.

    It must be satisfactory to every State, because it is conformable to the standard already established, or which may be established, by the State itself. It will be safe to the United States, because, being fixed by the State constitutions, it is not alterable by the State governments, and it cannot be feared that the people of the States will alter this part of their constitutions in such a manner as to abridge the rights secured to them by the federal Constitution." http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed52.asp

    There is one complication here: Justice Black argued in *Oregon v. Mitchell* that Congress could regulate voter qualifications for federal though not state elections under Art. I, § 4,
    "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators." But he seems to have been the only Justice taking this view. The liberals on the Court argued that Congress could establish an 18 year old vote for *both* federal and state elections in the name of enforcing the Equal Protection Clause. The conservatives argued that Congress could not establish an 18-year old vote for *either* state or federal elections. (Ironically, Justice Black prevailed on the actual result of the case, despite the fact that all the other justices disagreed with him on either state or federal elections. Of course, having two different rolls of voters, one for state and one for federal elections would be an administrative burden on the states, and to avoid that, the Constitution was amended to provide for the 18 year old vote in both state and federal elections. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/400/112/case.html

    BTW, in the nineteenth century, numerous states allowed aliens to vote: https://books.google.com/books?id=-fkmDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA11
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  17. marathag Well-Known Member

    Feb 2, 2013
    No, just that group of civilians
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  18. Dynasoar Yankee AeroSpace Pirate

    Aug 25, 2017
    Thousand Oaks, California
    Evan and David T,

    Thank you both for your comprehensive responses. In return for your efforts, I will download both to my permanent political file and reread them until I'm confident that I understand.

    Glad I went into engineering rather than law.

  19. sloreck Grunt Bear

    Aug 4, 2008
    It is worth noting that the major impediment to military voting in the early republic was no absentee voting. This became an issue during the ACW when you had large numbers of soldiers away from home, and with no fixed address other than home. Regulars would be in one location long enough to claim residency at whatever fort they were stationed at, OTOH the CW soldiers were essentially always on the move, and of course were not going to be voting in whatever spot of the CSA they were in. The absentee soldiers' vote was a major factor in Lincolns re-election.
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  20. RanulfC Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2014
    Patrick1978 wrote:
    As most folks have pointed out there' neither a legal or moral justification for such a move as the civilian control over the military has little to do with how they vote. Also as noted it would be the states, not the Federal government which defines eligibility and the only time the Federal level can or will get involved is if the States can't or won't address inequality or abuse. Jim Crow laws, voter intimidation, gerrymandering are all cases the Feds CAN get involved in but which the states will tend to self-regulate to keep that from happening.

    There needs to be a clear 'justification' for such an act to be based on which would need to be presented first and foremost.

    On what grounds? One group of people is asking the government to deny the legal rights of another group through legislation because they don't "like" what that group represents or stands for? And keep in mind those protesters were as distrustful of the 'government' outside the military as they were of the military.

    SsgtC wrote:
    Patrick1978 wrote:
    Not at all since it would be the civilian government which brought them in :) See ALL officials in the Federal Government take the same oath the military does; "To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic" (see: https://archive.opm.gov/constitution_initiative/oath.asp) You're "protesters" are illegally attempting to deny the rights of American Citizens to participate in our government. I doubt they'd actually have to call in the military, but be assured that should "word" get around you'd see more people IN uniform that out, (even if a majority of them didn't fit to well or were seriously out of date :) ) at any such protest.

    Again it would help if you could provide the background to the situation. As noted the "tendency" of the military is to vote Conservative but in fact the numbers are all over the place and greatly dependent on individual factors. (As a personal example most military I knew in Oklahoma tended to vote Republican at the national level and independent or Libertarian while some would even hold their noses and vote Democrat because the local Oklahoma Republicans tended to be "anti-military" in both stance and actions. Several state officials and a couple of Congressional Representatives made attempts to reduce medical and support benefits for the military and restrict military access to state facilities. The military votes did not affect these folks at all and they only backed down when their rhetoric began to impinge on getting military base closed down at which point the local communities turned against them

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