Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
Members of the military who are currently stationed overseas have
complained that the Pentagon has not yet sent out absentee ballots this
year, meaning they will not get to vote for a new commander in chief on
Specifically, members of U.S. Navy aboard ships supporting the USS Cole —
the destroyer recently attacked by terrorists while it
was undergoing refueling in the port of Aden, Yemen — have either not
received ballots or won’t get them in time because of current
deployment circumstances, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
“I’ve heard about this within the past week,” said Lt. Dave Gai,
a Defense Department spokesman. “We are trying to get more information.
We don’t know if they were delayed through the mail.”
He added that due to current deployment considerations, some military
members overseas likely would not get their ballots in time.
“The support team for the USS Cole may not get their ballots due to
intermittent mail,” Gai said. “Some ballots could very well be delayed
for a number of reasons.”
A Maine resident — who asked not to be identified — said her Navy
daughter who is stationed in Tokyo has received her absentee ballot for
every election except this one.
“No one at the base will be voting because all the absentee ballots
are missing,” she told WorldNetDaily.
Navy officials were also contacted but did not return phone calls.
Critics have suggested that the Clinton administration may have
purposely delayed sending absentee ballots to military personnel
overseas because most, according to recent surveys, will vote
Republican. The White House has denied those charges.
According to Gai, officials with the Federal Voting Assistance
Program — which helps manage balloting for overseas service members –
“was not aware of any group non-delivery.”
Gai said depending on the home state of the member, ballots can be
sent via Standard Form 186, which is a write-in ballot. States have
different deadlines for such ballots, he added.
Each ballot “is unit specific and handled individually,” he said.
Gai noted that “the military has a much higher participation [of
overall voters] in the voting process” than does the general voting
public. In the 1996 election, he said 64 percent of service members
participated; 40 percent of those were absentee ballots. Twelve
percent could not vote for various reasons, including because ballots
were either sent late or otherwise not received on time.