As of today, voting registration deadlines in 18 states and territories have passed, and military absentee ballot requests remain at a worryingly low level compared with past election years.

According to the most recent data, released Sept. 22, Florida has sent 65,173, compared to the just over 95,000 it counted four years ago. Virginia has sent out 12,292 military and overseas absentee ballots, less than 43 percent of the 28,816 it counted in 2008.

“It doesn’t take much to figure out that it will be difficult to meet the 2008 participation levels, even if every single ballot is returned and counted,” Military Voter Protection Project Executive Director Eric Eversole told Human Events.

Eversole said he was encouraged by a short message Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued from the Pentagon Oct. 4, reminding troops of the importance of voting. But he worries it’s too little, too late.

“It’s important when the defense secretary emphasizes the importance of voting; it carries a lot of weight with our service members,” Eversole said. “What’s disappointing about that is it’s issued 35, 30 days before the election.”