Va. candidates step up courting of military votes
By: William C. Flook Examiner Staff Writer
October 2, 2009
Virginia's gubernatorial candidates jockeyed for a wealth of active-duty and veterans votes, as political groups stepped up efforts this week to help overseas military voters navigate a vexing absentee ballot process.
Campaign officials hope for a smoother time than last year's presidential election, when a dispute over how to fill out absentee forms nearly invalidated dozens of military absentee ballots in Fairfax County. While far from tipping the election, the episode shone a harsh light on the confusing, technicality-fraught process by which members of the military cast their ballots.
Virginia is using a different ballot this year that officials don't expect to cause the same confusion. Overseas military personnel and their families are now able to receive a ballot by e-mail, and many members of the armed forces are already registered after intense efforts last year.
The changes are expected to benefit Republican nominee Bob McDonnell, a former Army officer who spent much of his life in Hampton Roads, a region heavy in military votes.
"Our biggest [goal] is to make sure that all those servicemen and women, regardless of where they're stationed, are given the opportunity to have their ballot counted, which obviously was an issue last time," said deputy McDonnell campaign manager Dave Rexrode.
McDonnell's Democratic opponent -- Creigh Deeds -- is far from conceding the military vote. Democrats have mounted a broad outreach to veterans especially, with a Veterans for Deeds committee headed by Sen. Jim Webb.
"If you look at the legislation that's come out of not only the [Virginia] General Assembly but Congress as well, and the support for veterans and military families specifically, a lot of that legislation has started on the Democratic side," said Joe Harmon, chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party's Veterans and Military Families Caucus.
Despite the changes, military personnel serving abroad still face numerous procedural hurdles when trying to send a ballot, said Ford O'Connell, president of ProjectVirginia Inc., a Republican-affiliated political action committee helping sign up military voters.
"The folks that protect us should not face a lot of roadblocks when they are exercising their right to vote," he said.
Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 election, although the State Board of Elections allows overseas members of the armed forces in some cases to register up until Oct. 27.
Thank You DCExaminer for publishing this timely information.
Thank You veterans for defending our right to exercise our voting privileges.