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GOP senators urge voting statement from Dempsey

- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Twenty-two Republican senators have cited recent comment by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "that appear to call into question whether military service members should vote."

In a letter sent Thursday, the senators urge Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey to make a public statement urging every service member to vote and telling them how they can register and cast ballots if they are deployed abroad.

A spokesman for the general said he would reply to the senators' letter.

"Gen. Dempsey recognizes the importance of service members exercising their right to vote, and has stated his strong support in writing in recent months," said Marine Col. David A. Lapan.

In their letter, the 22 Republicans, led by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said they want "to express our deep concern over recent public comments attributed to you that appear to call into question whether military service members should vote," contrary to Defense Department policy.

En route to Turkey for talks on the crisis in Syria this week, Gen. Dempsey told the Armed Forces Press Service that current and former service men and women should think carefully before they engage in partisan political activity.

His remarks are the latest in a series of comments apparently responding to the formation of political action groups headed by former military personnel that have excoriated President Obama and his administration over leaks about the nation's intelligence and counterterrorism victories.

Col. Lapan said he was responding to reporter's questions about the groups, and "Had he been asked about groups of former military supporting Democrats, or even Libertarians, he would have responded in a similar way."

"I don't care what side of the aisle someone happens to sit on or happens to support," Gen. Dempsey said, adding that he wants them "just to think about what impact their actions will have on our standing as a profession with the American people if they engage in partisan political activity."

In his own writings, the general has reminded service members why the U.S. military "embraces political neutrality as a core value."

But he also has been careful to stress: "No uniformed member should ever feel constrained in their well-earned right to vote."

The senators' letter comes on the heels of an inspector general's report earlier this month that raised concerns about the Defense Departments efforts top facilitate voting.

The other 21 GOP senators who signed the letter are John Barrasso and Michael Enzi of Wyoming, John Boozman of Arkansas, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Dean Heller of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, James Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio of Florida, John Thune of South Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, David Vitter of Louisiana and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

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