Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Military Votes Not Counted 98,000 Lost Military Ballots

Military Votes Not Counted: 98,000 Lost Military Ballots
By Maggie M. Thorton

Six million American citizens abroad were qualified to vote in the 2008 Presidential election. It is estimated that one-fourth of all military votes were not counted. At least, 98,000 lost military ballots were mailed back to the U.S. but not counted.
In the time I began writing this report, the details have changed. Fox News said this morning that one-fourth of military votes were not counted – that’s one out of four votes uncounted. A few minutes later, that estimate was raised to possibly one third of all military votes went uncounted – 1 out of 3 votes uncounted. Active duty and reserve troops make-up the largest portion of ballots received by eligible voters abroad. Some 441,000 ballots were requested. Of those, 98,000 were “lost.”

It is unclear from the major new sources, whether 98,000 ballots were mailed overseas and are considered “lost” because voters abroad decided not to exercise their vote, or if the 98,000 were “mailed out,” meaning mailed to the U.S. from abroad, and known not to have been received by election officials. From reporting, it appears the ballots are lost. Here’s the exact wording:

It said that of 441,000 absentee ballots requested by eligible voters living abroad — mainly active-duty and reserve troops — more than 98,000 were “lost” ballots that were mailed out but never received by election officials.

According to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), voter negligence is not thought to be a major factor in the lost military ballots. Schumer has announced an investigation. Schumer is quoted as saying “there is a chronic problem of military voters being sent a ballot without sufficient time to complete it and send it back. “It is reported that 11,000 ballots were “returned as undeliverable,” and 13,500 ballots were rejected for missing signatures, or the required notarization.

Maybe there is a problem mailing in ballots, and maybe there is not. Read this report from Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in October: the U.S. military has made a big push this year to help Soldiers request ballots, advertising the process with TV commercials, posters and ballot drives outside dining halls and recreations centers.

The top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, said he thinks this year’s effort was “the most significant drive probably in our nation’s history” to make sure deployed Soldiers can vote.

Schloesser said that in previous years deployed forces feared their vote would not count, but he said he hasn’t seen reason to believe votes wouldn’t count this election cycle.

At the main U.S. base at Bagram on Wednesday, Soldiers and civilian contractors filled out ballots known as the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. Those ballots are used when a person who has requested an absentee ballot has not received one.

From this same report: Democrats Abroad, the official Democratic Party organization for Americans living outside the United States, opened a new chapter in Afghanistan this autumn and helped dozens of Americans request ballots, said Susan Marx, the group’s chairwoman.

So it appears that a vote can be cast even if you have not received a requested ballot. And it seems that Democrats are over there helping soldiers vote. Are there any Republicans doing the same? Maybe votes are not being counted because they are military votes. Yes, I’m cynical.

There are so many infuriating details about this story. We go through this each election, and Congress postures and puffs and sweeps the details under the rug.

Some questions:

1) If “returned as undeliverable” is an issue, why not give our busy military a break and print the return address on the envelope? I don’t think our troops have the Yellow Pages over there. I understand that these votes go to differing precincts, but in this high-tech era, we can supply the return address for each vote.

2) Why are the ballots getting out too late to be returned in time for the vote count? There can be no excuse for this, with the possible exception that “government workers” are in charge.

3) Will we ever again trust our government to hold our votes sacred?

4) Where are the Senate’s war heroes: John McCain, John Kerry and Bob Dole? Years in the Senate and our military votes are still disenfranchised?

While American soldiers standby nearby to protect the lives of Iraqi’s casting a vote, their own vote gets shoveled.

Senator Chuck Schumer has vowed to investigate. Fox News’ Steve Centani is reporting that hearings are underway now on Capitol Hill. Whatever. What a disgrace for this country: military votes uncounted! 98,000 lost military votes!

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