A veteran will likely be on your election ballot this fall, but maybe not in the race you expected.
With 23 percent, New Hampshire has the strongest veteran representation in a state legislature, followed closely by Nevada, Alabama, North Dakota and Tennessee. Utah, where only 5 percent of the state's elected leaders have military experience, ranks last. California, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Illinois round out the report's "Bottom Five," each with single-digit veteran representation in their state legislatures.
Numerous groups have raised concerns in recent years about the declining numbers of veterans seeking and winning congressional seats, especially as Congress deals with ever-more complex issues surrounding national security and military policy.
In 1971, veterans made up 72 percent of House seats and 78 percent of the Senate. In the latest Congress, only 20 percent of senators had served in the military, and only 18 percent of House members claimed military service.
Much of that decline is due to the all-volunteer force and the shrinking number of veterans in the country as a whole.
The state legislature survey found about 14 percent of the nearly 7,400 elected individuals nationwide have served, an even smaller percentage than in Congress. Veterans make up about 9 percent of the American population.
But Burgess said she sees the new numbers as a positive development, since they show steady involvement by veterans in politics across in a variety of positions. In some cases, individuals can be more effective at passing policy at state and local levels.
"Often [advocates] are so focused on the federal level that they don't think about the importance and impact of work at the state and local offices," she said.
Burgess said she hopes to build on the findings with more historical data, to track connections between veterans in state office and federal elections.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.