Captain [Ret.] Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN began his military career in November 1973, when he was commissioned an Ensign in the Naval Reserve, via the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC) Student Program. At the time, he was in his first semester at the University of Houston Law School. After graduating from law school and passing the Texas bar exam, he reported to active duty in January 1977, to attend the Naval Justice School. He left active duty the first time in March 1980, and affiliated with the Naval Reserve JAGC Program. He has been back on active duty multiple times, for more than a decade of full-time active duty. He retired from the Navy Reserve on 1 April 2007. His military decorations include a Meritorious Service Medal, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, and two Navy Commendation Medals.
Wright became interested in military voting rights in the immediate aftermath of the 1976 general election, when he was involved in an election contest involving an exceedingly close election for the U.S. House of Representatives (TX-22). In Texas’ largest county, more than 300 absentee ballots arrived at the County Clerk’s post office box on the morning after Election Day, and those ballots were not counted. Most of the ballots were from military addresses.
After leaving active duty in 1980, Wright undertook a continuing nationwide effort to reform absentee voting laws and procedures, for the benefit of military and overseas citizens. He has a mailing list of more than 2,500 volunteers, mostly military reservists and retirees. Each state has made at least some progress in simplifying absentee voting procedures and providing more ballot transmission time, but much more remains to be done.
Most states still conduct absentee voting essentially as it was done during World War II, by shipping pieces of paper across oceans and continents by snail mail. We need a system enabling deployed military personnel to transmit and receive absentee ballot requests and the unmarked and marked ballots by secure electronic means. In commerce, billions of dollars are transmitted electronically each day, without loss. In the military, classified information is transmitted by secure electronic means. If electronic means are secure enough for huge sums of money and our nation’s most important secrets, why is it not possible for the deployed service member to vote electronically?
In 1982, after leaving active duty the second time, Wright joined the United States Department of Labor (DOL) as an attorney. He was primarily involved in litigation to enforce the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights (VRR) law, the 1940 law that gives individuals the right to reemployment after voluntary or involuntary military service or training. Together with one other DOL attorney (Susan M. Webman), Wright largely drafted the interagency task force work product that Congress enacted (with only a few changes) in 1994, as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA (codified at title 38, United States Code, sections 4301-4335) is the comprehensive and long-overdue rewrite of the VRR law.
Wright has been speaking and writing about the VRR law and USERRA for more than 26 years. In 1997, he initiated the “Law Review” column in the magazine and website of the Reserve Officers Association (ROA). Please see www.roa.org/law_review. You will find more than 450 articles, mostly by Wright, about USERRA, military voting rights, and other military-legal topics. In April 2008, Wright joined the law firm Tully Rinckey P.L.L.C. as a partner. His practice involves USERRA and other military-related laws exclusively. You can reach Captain Wright at email@example.com.