The Draft and Eligibility To Vote In The USA
November 28, 2014 12:59 AM   Subscribe

I was told (in an argument about feminism, of all darned things) that in order to be eligible to vote in the USA a (male) citizen is required to register to be drafted into the military. Is this true at all?

Not being from the USA myself, I had never ever heard of any such a thing being the case! I was pretty sure there WAS NO DRAFT- and hadn't been since the mid 70s.. Much less that men were required to be a part of said draft in order to... ya know, participate in the democratic process. Was this (completely rabid misogynist) person just making things up? Everything else he had to say seemed like a horrorshow of bile and nonsense..

If it is the case- how does it work? My googling hasn't gotten me very far- and has led me down some dark rabbit holes. Can you clear it up for me? Thanks!
posted by Philby to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Simply untrue:
posted by the Real Dan at 1:05 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think what the person may have been referring to is the fact that in order to become a U.S. citizen, you need to take the oath of allegiance, which requires you to agree to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law. This is generally taken to refer to a draft, and since women have never been subject to a draft, it's understood to apply only to men. (There is no draft now. It's unlikely there will be a draft again. If there were to be a draft, it'd be unlikely to include women.)

I know because it's something pacifist Quaker men have struggled with. They know that practically it's moot, but don't want to swear to something they don't believe in. I can't remember how it's been resolved -- i.e., if there's any way to avoid it.
posted by Susan PG at 1:29 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

He means that men between the ages of 18 and 25 in the U.S. are required to register with the Selective Service. Here's a list of federal programs that are tied to selective service registration - it doesn't appear that voting is tied to registration. Men do need to register to be eligible for student loans, though, and not registering could result in a fine up to $250,000 and 5 years in prison (although I'm not sure how strictly that's enforced). The Selective Service is the program by which they could reinstitute a draft, but they haven't done so since 1973; people seem to mostly describe it as a "contingency plan" at this point.
posted by dialetheia at 1:42 AM on November 28, 2014 [37 favorites]

It also may have been confusion stemming from fact that SS registration is required for males of eligible age in order to receive federal college financial aid.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:46 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, failure to register is a felony, and a felony conviction strips people of their voter right in many states. Also, colloquially in lots of places it's referred to as "registering for the draft."

It's a pretty messed-up system in multiple ways.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:11 AM on November 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

I meant to add: this is not, however, something the government makes a point of pursuing and prosecuting people for. It would be very unlikely for someone to be arrested for failing to register, convicted, and stripped of their voting rights as a result. (Doesn't mean those laws should still be on the books, but in practice I don't think it plays out that way.)
posted by tiger tiger at 3:14 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a friend [from Germany] who was denied US citizenship because he didn't register with the Selective Service during the time when he was a legal immigrant, so now he obviously can't vote though he's still allowed to reside in the US.
Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male immigrants living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service. It's important to know that even though he is registered, a man will not automatically be inducted into the military. In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. Then, they would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces.

So yeah, there is no draft lately and there isn't likely to be one any time soon but there are consequences for men who fail to register with the Selective Service and the Selective Service are a bit coy. Their website says that they don't collect information about citizenship - but immigration does. You can actually serve in the US military without being a US citizen.
posted by vapidave at 5:57 AM on November 28, 2014

If there were to be a draft, it'd be unlikely to include women

I think that was his point.

He was sloppy to say "the draft" when he was really speaking of Selective Service. As already noted, it is a felony for an eligible male in the US to fail to register, although the consequences are usually not criminal prosecution. Rather, it will be things like ineligibility for federal student loans and federal employment. Many states have also enacted extra measures, such as that SSA registration is required to get a driver's license or receive certain state benefits such as education or employment.

NOW, to its credit, has opposed male-only Selective Service, most notably in the Rostker v. Goldberg case. The basis of SCOTUSs decision was largely that women were excluded from ground combat roles, so now that this is no longer the case, the SSA may reevaluate its male-only policy.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:11 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Relatedly, this is a common MRA talking point. You can shut down by asking who decided that only men should register for the draft (older, richer men).
posted by Metafilter Username at 6:34 AM on November 28, 2014 [22 favorites]

So people are drawing a distinction between "Selective service" and "the draft" but I followed dialetheia's link and the web site doesn't mention any purpose for the selective service program other than keeping a list for a potential draft. How is this different from just keeping a list of draft-eligible people just in case there's a draft? It sounds like registering for the (as yet uncalled) draft to me.

I've always wondered about this because when I was a kid watching american saturday morning cartoons there were always commercials reminding kids that when they turned 18 they had to register for selective service. I imagined it was a thing where you had to provide some service to the country and could select which kind you wanted (e.g. maybe you'd be a reservisist, maybe you'd do peace corps, maybe you'd do some other less onerous form of public service/volunteering). But now I look at it and it seems like it's just basically "do nothing, but put yourself on this list so we'll have the lottery ready to run at a moment's notice if we decide to draft people."

In conclusion, even if the part about voting is false, the "register for the draft" part looks true to me. Am I missing something?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:23 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Voting might not be tied directly to registration, but they do compare the two lists. My husband, when he grew up in California, didn't register for Selective Service. When he registered to vote, he got a letter saying hey, we notice you didn't register for Selective Service, we've used your voting registration information to do it for you!
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

In conclusion, even if the part about voting is false, the "register for the draft" part looks true to me. Am I missing something?

The distinction is largely semantic. The draft is actual conscription in to the military, and there hasn't been a draft since the Vietnam war. Selective Service is the list used for the draft (and no, it's not officially for anything else, though registration is a precondition for things like federal loans and government jobs). Technically you're not registering for the draft because there is no draft, you're registering for the list used for the draft if there is one. But again, the distinction is semantic, and "registering for the draft" is colloquially understood as registering for Selective Service.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:56 AM on November 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

As Metafilter Username said, this is a very common talking point among (rabidly misogynist) MRAs, so it's useful as a red-flag comment to let you know the person is likely coming from a weird and twisted logic. Some additional commentary.
posted by jaguar at 10:02 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

An an alternative, more charitable, interpretation of the person's conflating the two ideas (registering for selective service as pre-requisate for voter registration) is that one's eligilibity for both occurs on the 18th birthday and registration for both can be done at the local Post Office, so most American men usually do both at the same time (at least me and most of my friends did). The difference is that one is proscribed and carries a penalty for faling to so (Selective Service) while the other is voluntary and carries no legal penalty for failing to do so (Voter Registration).
posted by KingEdRa at 5:38 PM on November 28, 2014

« Older Is Rolfing bullshit?   |   I need winter wear for Kilimanjaro. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.