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Will Congress probe military-ballot snafu?

A Florida congressman has written to the House Armed Services Committee
to request an investigation into why numerous military personnel — many
who are self-proclaimed Republican supporters of George W. Bush — are
complaining that they did not receive requested absentee ballots in time
to vote in this year’s presidential election.

Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla.

Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., in a letter to Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C.,
said an investigation was warranted due to “numerous reports that our
military men and women were unable to vote in Tuesday’s election due to
delays in receiving absentee ballots.”

“As you know, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon discussed the matter at
length during a briefing yesterday,” Scarborough said. Though Bacon
denied Pentagon culpability, the Florida Republican said he had
“received several e-mails from military servicemen and women and their
dependents this morning complaining that they did not receive absentee
ballots they had requested.”

On Tuesday, Bacon told reporters that the Pentagon was not responsible
for sending out military absentee ballots. And in subsequent
conversations with a Pentagon spokesman, WorldNetDaily has been told
that military personnel stationed overseas or away from their state of
residence must themselves request absentee ballots from those states.

However, Scarborough said personnel he spoke with claimed to have
followed standard procedure — but still failed to receive ballots.

Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., chairman of the House Armed Services
Committee

“I have personally spoken to several of these individuals who claim they
followed normal procedures but never received their ballots,” the
congressman said.

To bolster his request, Scarborough also said “several published reports
over the past several days” have cited “reports of problems with
military absentee voting.” The first of those stories

was broken
Saturday by WorldNetDaily.

“While I understand the individual servicemen and women must request absentee ballots through their respective election offices, I believe these widespread reports of delivery problems merit an investigation by the committee,” the letter said.

“Men and women in the military have every right to vote on who their next commander-in-chief will be; if something was done to inhibit their ability to vote, the public has a right to know,” wrote Scarborough.

A spokesman at the House Armed Services Committee had no comment on the letter.

At issue are a number of complaints made by active-duty military personnel who said they had asked for — but never received — absentee ballots and hence were unable to vote last Tuesday. The problem has been exacerbated by the presidential election as GOP nominee George Bush and Democratic rival Al Gore await completion of a legally mandated recount of votes in Scarborough’s state of Florida, where 25 electoral votes — and the presidency — are at stake.

Analysts have said that in a close race — or a Gore win after a recount — the military absentee ballots would be crucial to the Bush campaign because a large majority of military personnel historically vote Republican.

WorldNetDaily tried a number of times yesterday to contact the Election Board offices at the Florida Secretary of State’s office to inquire about the number of absentee ballots the state had received thus far, but the telephone was busy most of the day and messages that were left went unanswered because election officials are busy with the state’s recount.

A Pentagon spokesman who asked not to be identified told WorldNetDaily yesterday that 176,492 military personnel list Florida as their home state, and that currently 24,241 were stationed overseas. However, the spokesman did not know how many overseas personnel from Florida requested or were sent absentee ballots.

Kenneth Bacon, assistant secretary of defense for public relations, confirmed for reporters during a briefing yesterday that states, including Florida, would not know how many absentee ballots to expect from the number of ballots requested.

Regarding complaints about service personnel not receiving requested ballots, the anonymous Pentagon spokesman said there were “scattered complaints every election,” but that the Defense Department was not aware of “widespread reports” of missed ballots. The spokesman also said Defense did not keep records or statistics of numbers of complaints or which states complaining personnel lived in.

Bacon reiterated that records were not kept “contemporaneously” on how many personnel wanted to vote but could not. He said the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which assists military members with voting, generates a post-election report that surveys 20,000 military personnel and asks how many had problems voting.

“[The FVAP] (will) ask them if they had any problems voting and what those problems were,” Bacon said. The

online version of the FVAP’s
15th report, taken between 1992 and 1996, did not list the number of
absentee-ballot complaints.

A

new survey was sent out Nov. 6.

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense William Cohen also said he was not aware of any widespread problems regarding troops who could not get ballots, but instead said there may have been “more routine problems.”

Because of sudden changes in assignments or other circumstances, service members “might not get your ballot,” Bacon said. “So there will be people who fall between the cracks. It’s unfortunate.”

However, many of the complaints received by WorldNetDaily and Scarborough were from service members who were not in unique circumstances or otherwise unreachable by mail.

Also, many who complained said 2000 was the first election year in which they had not been able to get a ballot, even though they had followed standard procedure:

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