Iraq War Vet Sees Voting Rights Under Fire at Home

Click on Photo to Hear Why Voter Photo ID Would Hurt Active-Duty Military and Veterans

Alex Erickson spent 14 months in Baghdad as a Cavalry Scout as part of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. Times were tough, he said, as he endured two holidays away from friends and family. But Erickson got to witness Iraqis voting in a free election, which he found to be a gratifying experience.

“One thing that left a lasting impact on me that I’ll never forget was witnessing the 2009 Iraqi Provincial Elections,” said Erickson, who currently works on Congressman Keith Ellison’s re-election campaign. “It was by no means a model election, but one that made me realize the importance of voting rights and democracy. To come home and see some of those rights under attack is something that I couldn’t stand for.”

Erickson addressed a town hall meeting on Aug. 6 in Saint Louis Park about the consequences to active-duty military and veterans if the proposed Voter Photo ID constitutional amendment passes on the November ballot.

“We don’t have election judges in Iraq and Afghanistan and it would be very difficult to show Photo ID when you’re over there. Take my word for it.”

He explained that, while the federal government is in charge of military voting, individual states do have the right to determine who’s eligible to register to vote.

“Any further barrier in the way of our service members who are working the hardest, making the greatest sacrifices to keep our way of life — I think that’s unconscionable.”

A veteran in the crowd spoke on behalf of homeless vets who find it difficult to vote, either because they don’t have government-issued IDs or because they don’t have a registered address.

“A lot of veterans are people with disabilities or who have problems with mobility,” explained Erickson. “A lot of veterans might not be the kinds of people who are predisposed to wait around for eight hours to get a new Photo ID. I think that service in Iraq, or Afghanistan or Vietnam will do that to you.

“Also, a lot of veterans are used to using a Department of Veterans Affairs card, which does not have a current address on it. So (by implementing Voter ID) we would be disenfranchising a whole swath of veterans who have made great sacrifices for our country.”

See related story, Voter Photo ID a “Huge Step Backwards” for Voting Rights of Disabled Minnesotans.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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