by Delbert Hosemann
In 2008, shortly after being elected Secretary of State, I traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait to visit with thousands of men and women deployed overseas in the Mississippi National Guard. The topic of conversation was the importance of voting.
For years, our UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act) ballot numbers had been down. The process in place for our soldiers to vote was convoluted and not conducive to their situation.
We immediately got to work when I returned to the States. Our office created an online clearinghouse of voting information for our deployed soldiers. We streamlined the voting process so they can vote electronically from anywhere in the world. We formed relationships with voting officers on our overseas bases and bases in Mississippi to ensure soldiers received timely information about registering to vote and casting a ballot.
Ten years later, I was again invited to join our deployed soldiers, this time in Kuwait about a month before the General Election in 2018. During this visit, I was struck by the competency, professionalism, bravery, and selflessness of our men and women serving overseas. My new mission was clear: making sure Mississippians back home understand the sacrifices our soldiers continue to make for our freedoms, including the right to vote.
That fall, we started a new program at the Secretary of State’s Office called Vote in Honor of a Soldier. Citizens were invited to complete an online form honoring any service member in their lives. The office then sent them a sticker to wear on Election Day to show their appreciation for our military men and women, and tributes to our soldiers were posted online for citizens to read. We placed yellow ribbons in every precinct.
My most recent trip to Kuwait with the Mississippi National Guard was in August this year. The full weight of this particular visit did not hit until weeks later when Hamas attacked Israel and violence erupted in the Middle East.
The fact is our soldiers are members of a headquarters company with responsibilities including aviation, armor, and special operations. They are not just serving. They are leading in our military—and at this very moment, many of them are in harm’s way.
Please honor our deployed men and women by taking a couple of minutes out of your day on Tuesday, Nov. 7, and go vote. Not casting a ballot is an excuse, not a reason.
Let us send a clear message to our Mississippi soldiers on Election Day: We appreciate the sacrifices you have made and we want you to come home safe. Until you are back on Mississippi soil, we will honor you by exercising one of the most important freedoms you have fought to protect — the right to vote.
Note: Delbert Hosemann is Mississippi’s Lt. Governor and is running for reelection against Democrat D. Ryan Grover.