- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

About 67 percent of the 250,000 military personnel serving overseas during this year's election were expected to cast absentee ballots. Whether they will count will depend on how quickly the ballots were filled out and returned to election officials and whether the states sent them out in a timely manner.
The plight of military voters was a source of concern during the 2000 presidential election, when a large number of military personnel eligible to vote in Florida about 1,500 of them saw their votes thrown out because they arrived too late, lacked a proper postmark or were improperly witnessed or sealed.
A postelection investigation conducted by the Pentagon inspector general in 2001 revealed no inherent problems with overseas voting procedures, but officials vowed to increase efforts to make sure all mail processed received an appropriate postmark.
Military voting procedures are no different from those of other absentee voters; the ballots must be requested, filled out and returned on time.
But military voters have special difficulties. Submarines and other deployed vessels receive and send mail only sporadically, and mail can be slow to reach personnel in combat zones, where higher priority cargo often claims space on military aircraft.
But each base and vessel has at least one person and usually many more trained by the Federal Voting Assistance Program to help military voters cast absentee ballots, from informing them when to request the ballots from their home states to filling them out and getting them witnessed and mailed in time, said Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood. FVAP increased training this election cycle, he said, to add to the stable of voter advocates in the military.
Mr. Flood said the dramatic video footage of bags of mail languishing on the decks of ships in 2000 were misleading. While the mail was delayed, the bags were not necessarily filled with absentee ballots. Many had been sent in long before, he said. Close to 75 percent of the military voted in the 2000 presidential election, according to the Pentagon.
New York and Minnesota pose particular challenges this election for overseas voters, said Andrew Goldberg, executive director of Democrats Abroad, a voting advocacy group for the 6 million Americans living overseas.
"New York City only sent out absentee ballots last week, and in New York the law is the ballot must be postmarked the day before the election, and it must be received within seven days of the election," Mr. Goldberg said.

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