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Thursday, August 19, 2004

US Military working to ensure soldiers can vote

August 19, 2004
On March 17, Rumsfeld sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs and Combatant Commanders telling them how the services will make sure all military members — and their family members — who are overseas, or stationed here but are away from home, get the chance to vote, and vote so that no Mark Herrons can disenfranchise them.

At the heart of Rumsfeld's plan is putting some teeth into the old Voting Assistance Officer idea. On top of it is a strategy — now underway — to use both the internet and the Postal Service effectively to help servicemen and their families request absentee ballots and get them returned in time to be counted. Last Friday, I spoke to Charlie Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness. ...

Abell told me that this is a very high priority for DoD, because it's a very high priority for the troops and their families, who have a much higher voter turnout — proportionally — than the general population. He said, "We know from sampling from the Federal Election Commission [and other sources] that in year 2000, about 51 percent of the general public voted. We know from our surveys that about 75 percent of the worldwide uniformed services military...voted." Over the years, the DoD data show — unsurprisingly — that those who fight for the right to vote take that right more seriously than other Americans.

The plan's niftiest aspect is the use of the internet to enable soldiers to request absentee ballots — and then to download the actual ballot to fill out and send in. Right now, any soldier or family member can download the Federal Post Card Application from the government website designed to help all overseas voters and send it in. Better still, the Defense Department is getting all the state-ballot request forms and the ballots themselves loaded onto the system. Most of the states are cooperating by allowing internet and even faxed ballot requests. ... FR Reprint.

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