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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Pentagon Takes the Offensive to Ensure Timely Delivery of Absentee Ballots

August 07, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Friday it had improved its website for absentee voters and promised faster mail service as it pushed programs to avert a repeat of the balloting problems of the 2000 election.

Television and radio announcements and banners in commissaries and classrooms are part of the Defense Department plan to help the 492,000 troops abroad have better access to ballots back home.

Nearly 70% of the 258,000 service members overseas during the last presidential election cast ballots, compared with 51% of the general public and 37% of U.S. civilians overseas, said Charles Abell, principal deputy to the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness.

Military voting problems created an uproar in the 2000 election when some ballots were rejected in Florida, where George W. Bush's razor-thin margin of victory gave him the presidency after a legal battle. Several hundred absentee ballots from troops abroad were thrown out in the state for lack of postmarks, as required by state law, or other flaws.

Laws for casting ballots from abroad differ from state to state, and the mailing process itself can be daunting.

For instance, while nearly three months remain until the election on Nov. 2, the process for voters overseas starts in September. In its awareness program this year, the Pentagon is emphasizing two key periods, the first Sept. 3-11.

"If you have not requested your ballot, or you have not registered for this election yet, you should do it, you must do it, during this week," Abell said.

The second period is Oct. 11-15. He said that is the latest that overseas voters can safely send in their ballots, "even from the remotest part of the world to the remotest part of the United States."

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