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Political race comical, voting privileges are serious

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By LISA SMITH MOLINARI

This presidential campaign season has been like no other. The battle between the unusual mix of controversial establishment, infamous outsider, and political fringe candidates has been downright epic. Personal attacks are the new norm, launched daily against candidates and even their spouses.

The constant stream of contentious debates, social media brawls, nasty attack ads and shrieking rallies has garnered endless media coverage. Each candidate has staunch supporters who are not only indifferent to their candidate’s obvious faults.

With all this fodder, it’s no wonder that a mockery has been made of it all.

“Seinfeld” creator Larry David has revived his entertainment career doing an uncanny imitation of Socialist Democrat Bernie Sanders. Establishment Republican Ted Cruz can’t seem to shake the his hilarious comparison to Sesame Street’s “The Count.” Rush Limbaugh has dubbed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton “Screech.” And the Republican front-runner supplies the “Trump joke du jour” every day since he entered the race last June.

It would all be a laugh riot, if the situation weren’t so serious.

Our next commander in chief will be faced with a multitude of complex domestic and international issues, not the least of which is the continuing threat of terrorism. Everyone knows about the recent attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels; but did you know that hundreds of other innocent victims were killed in lesser-known terrorist attacks in Turkey, Nigeria, Mali, Tunis, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Somalia and the Ivory coast during the same time period?

And in case you hadn’t heard, there is a gaping hole in our U.S. Supreme Court since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. With the Senate refusing to hold hearings on Obama’s replacement nominee, the next president could very well influence the laws of this country for a generation to come.

This is why I was so shocked to find out that some fellow military voters are considering not voting at all, or casting their vote for another party in protest. “Why would you do that?” I asked one friend with genuine surprise.

“Why not?” he quipped, disgusted with the political campaign circus.

This election cycle is so extreme, Bernie Sanders devotees are vowing to vote for Trump if Hillary is the nominee. Cruz supporters are promising to vote for Hillary if Trump is the nominee. Trump voters will allegedly riot if anyone else wins. And there is talk of last-minute third-party candidates, brokered conventions, and prophesies that we are on the brink of a political revolution.

But despite the mayhem, voting is a serious right that should be especially important to military members who are required to follow the orders of their commander-in-chief. However, military voter participation rates are appallingly low. According to The Council of State Governments Data Center website, there were 221,925,820 eligible stateside voters in the 2012 election, 58.7 percent of whom voted successfully. But of the 4,737,600 eligible registered U.S. military and overseas voters in that election, only 12.7 percent actually returned ballots.

Voting in the military can be more difficult, especially for the roughly two-thirds who must use absentee ballots because they are not stationed in their home of record. But thanks to The MOVE Act of 2009, Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, and helpful websites such as www.overseasvotefoundation.org, www.usvotefoundation.org, and www.fvap.gov, it is easier to register to vote, request absentee ballots, and return ballots than it used to be.

Active duty military and their spouses can get absentee ballots quickly by going to the Military Voter Protection Pro-ject website (www.mvpproject.org) and clicking “Request Your Absentee Ballot.” There, you will complete a Federal Post Card Application that will enable you to register and request a ballot at the same time.

The chaos of this election cycle is not an excuse—it’s exactly why military servicepersons and their spouses should take part in selecting the next commander-in-chief. Our military members fight silently for our right to vote, and now it’s time for their voices to be heard.

Editor’s Note: If you need to register to vote or don’t know if you are registered please contact your unit’s installation voting assistance officer, or contact Ted Rivera, the VAO, at (502) 624-7325.