Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Campaigns Spar Over Military Absentee Ballots |

Campaigns Spar Over Military Absentee Ballots |
Even as state election officials across the U.S. have noticed a rise in military voting, a disturbing trend has appeared. The rate active-duty military voters who reported not receiving a requested absentee ballot almost doubled from 16 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2010, according to a survey done by the Defense Department’s Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP). 
“It is a very real challenge” to get ballots out to forward operating bases in Afghanistan and other duty stations worldwide, said Paddy McGuire, FVAP’s deputy director for Elections Assistance. Mail services must also return those ballots as servicemembers try to keep track of ever-changing voting deadlines and the blizzard of federal, state and local election laws.
The political parties have added to the confusion of who can vote and when. Both Republicans and Democrats have dispatched platoons of lawyers to challenge or defend local election laws as they jockey for advantage.

The parties have clashed recently over an Ohio law that allowed military absentee ballots to be accepted up to the day before the Nov. 6 general election day. The cutoff for civilian absentee ballots is Nov. 2.

The National Guard Association filed a motion backing Republicans seeking to keep the three-day window for the military although Joseph Goheen, an NGA spokesman, said the motion was filed reluctantly.

“Our intent was to ensure that our members had a voice in this,” Goheen said. “But it’s been twisted in every direction by those seeking to politicize this.”

He said he supported the solution of accepting all absentee ballots up to Nov. 5 as requested in the lawsuit filed jointly by the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and Ohio Democratic Party in July.

“We have no problem with that. We’re really not taking sides in this,” said Goheen, who explained that NGA’s main concern is making voting as easy as possible for servicemembers overseas. 
McGuire admits a “complexity problem” still exists for troops trying to navigate the absentee ballot process.

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