Military voting rights still aren’t protected. That’s the message from former Justice Department official M. Eric Eversole, who argues in a column at the front of this section that his former employer is undermining the new law requiring states to mail ballots to military voters at least 45 days before the November elections. If anything, the situation might be even worse than Mr. Eversole suggests.
The Obama administration refuses to release the waiver requests filed by a dozen states and territories claiming an inability to meet the legal deadline. Mr. Eversole and 17 members of Congress led by Rep. Robert E. Latta, Ohio Republican, sought this information through formal requests.
One of the states requesting a waiver, Colorado, held its primary three days ago - a whopping 84 days ahead of the November election. It defies belief that the Centennial State would claim that it doesn’t have enough time to mail ballots to military voters by the law’s deadline of Sept. 18. Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat, insists that he is unable to comply, and his spokesman Rich Coolidge admitted that some military votes won’t get counted as a result. Mr. Buescher did post online the letter he sent with the waiver request, in which he claimed compliance would be “extremely difficult” in light of the state’s Sept. 3 date for “ballot certification.”
That leaves 15 days after certification to print and mail the ballots. With all the modern technology available, it’s hardly credible that this is something that cannot be made to happen. Other states that are dragging their feet and demanding waivers include Washington state, where the primary is Aug. 17, and Alaska, where the primary is Aug. 24. Again, these dates are well ahead of the legal deadline.
In the eight states where primaries are not held until Sept. 14, the waiver requests make some sense. Nonetheless, the law requires that these jurisdictions find some other way to guarantee that military votes can be cast and counted on time and that they detail how this will be accomplished despite missing the 45-day deadline. The public has a right to see and evaluate all such plans.
The lack of transparency on this issue makes it difficult to know whether the Justice Department takes seriously the right of military personnel serving overseas to have a say in the way our government is run. Those who risk their lives on behalf of this country should not be disenfranchised because the administration refuses to do its job.
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By Elaine Donnelly
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