Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
A Republican lawmaker says he has confirmed a report with a Defense
Department official that “thousands” of military absentee ballots sent
from U.S. Navy personnel overseas did not arrive in the U.S. until last
Wednesday — perhaps too late to be sent on to local canvassing boards
to be included in vote tallies.
According to a statement released Sunday by Rep. Spencer Bachus,
R-Ala., “thousands of absentee ballots from U.S. sailors on duty in the
Persian Gulf did not arrive in the United States” until Nov. 15, when
they arrived in New York City before being transferred from the military
postal services to the U.S. Postal Service for final delivery.
“This is a travesty,” Bachus said in his statement. He was
particularly concerned about absentee ballots that did not make it to
the key state of Florida.
“Under Florida law, absentee ballots not received by midnight last
Friday (Nov. 17) cannot be counted,” he said. “The Department of Defense
… had an obligation to make absolutely certain those ballots were
delivered on time to be counted,” but, he added, “that did not happen.”
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.
But because the deadline for absentee ballots in the critical state
of Florida was just two days later, Bachus said, “those ballots likely
did not get to Florida in time to meet the deadline.”
On Sunday, Bachus said he spoke with a congressional liaison officer
with the Pentagon who “confirmed that ballots were not taken off seven
U.S. ships until days after Election Day.”
The Alabama Republican said those ships include the USS Normandy and
USS McCluskey, from which ballots were removed with other mail on Nov.
11; the USS McHenry and the USS Essex, from which ballots and mail were
collected Nov. 12; the
USS Tarawa and USS Cook, which did not have
ballots removed until Nov. 13; and the USS Anchorage, which did not have mail and ballots removed until Nov. 14.
Bachus, a member of the Army National Guard from 1969-71, said he inquired about mail from another ship in the area, the USS Duluth, but said his congressional source, whom he did not name, had “no information on when those ballots were sent” back to the U.S.
“Reports to my office indicate that absentee ballots from the Duluth may not have been picked up as of [Nov. 15],” the lawmaker said.
WorldNetDaily first reported that ballots and mail aboard the Tarawa was late. Then, thousands of pieces of mail, including some ballots, were reportedly left aboard the assault ship, even though mail had been delivered before the Nov. 13 pick-up date.
Pentagon and Navy officials said the delay was due to the Tarawa having been tasked with helping evacuate wounded from the terrorist attack against the USS Cole a month earlier, as well as helping to secure the stricken destroyer and prevent the billion-dollar warship from sinking.
Bachus said the situation with the Cole and other operational requirements were serious, but should not have prevented such long mail and ballot pick-up delays.
“It’s outrageous that our military personnel — serving under crisis conditions in the Persian Gulf — have been denied their right to vote,” he said. “The failure to deliver these ballots in time is a very serious matter, and an investigation needs to go forward to find out what went wrong.”
Bachus and other Republicans believe Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s slim 930-vote lead would be greater if some military absentee ballots had not been thrown out once they did arrive.
“Given the concerted Democrat Party effort to throw out as many military absentee ballots as possible in the current Florida vote count … certainly no decent American would challenge the inalienable right of our soldiers, sailors and airmen to have their voices heard in the choice of their next commander in chief,” Bachus said in a statement on Monday.
He has pledged to pursue what went wrong with the military’s overseas balloting system until the “culprits responsible for this scandal are dealt with at the highest level.”
Other military postal experts and former voting officers have told WorldNetDaily that the absentee balloting system used by the Pentagon is antiquated and inefficient, and that every election year similar balloting problems have occurred.
They say, though, that the problems are enhanced this year because of the closeness of the race and, in particular, the focus on military ballots prior to their arrival in Florida as a means of potentially tipping the scale of victory for either candidate.
The GOP is particularly upset by the loss of military ballots because, traditionally, military members have tended to vote for Republican candidates, as Bush’s garnering of 1,380 votes last Saturday in Florida demonstrated.
Democrat Al Gore managed to pick up 750 votes from overseas absentee ballots.