(Bumped up from last week.)
I saw the following story this morning on the news, and was pretty surprised by it: One-Fourth of Overseas Votes Go Uncounted, Study Finds. Some of you may recall that John McCain asked for an extension to count votes in VA for absentee ballots requested by military personnel that were delayed in being set out. That was back in November.
Well, a new study has just come out from the US Senate, and you are not going to believe this. This is certainly timely given our conversations regarding our votes being counted, continuing tonight at 9:00pm (EST). Get this:
One out of every four ballots requested by military personnel and other Americans living overseas for the 2008 election may have gone uncounted, according to findings being released at a Senate hearing Wednesday.
Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said the study, while providing only a snapshot of voting patterns, “is enough to show that the balloting process for service members is clearly in need of an overhaul.”
Uh, ya THINK, Chuck?? No freakin’ kidding! These people put their lives on the line, and then one of their most basic right as Americans, the right to have vote and have it counted is treated so cavalierly? Yeah, I think that warrants an “overhaul.” SO astute.
The committee, working with the Congressional Research Service, surveyed election offices in seven states with high numbers of military personnel: California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
It said that of 441,000 absentee ballots requested by eligible voters living abroad — mainly active-duty and reserve troops — (emphasis mine)more than 98,000 were “lost” ballots that were mailed out but never received by election officials. Taking into account 13,500 ballots that were rejected for such reasons as a missing signature or failure to notarize, one-quarter of those requesting a ballot were disenfranchised.
The study found that an additional 11,000 ballots were returned as undeliverable.
Holy smokes. Twenty-five percent of the votes cast were not counted. I’m still trying to get my head around that, especially in light of the clear intention TO vote as expressed here:
Schumer’s office said that because a person living abroad must request the absentee ballot and show a clear intention to vote, voter negligence is not thought to be a major factor.
Rather, the New York Democrat said in a statement, there is a chronic problem of military voters being sent a ballot without sufficient time to complete it and send it back. He cited estimates that a ballot can take up to 13 days to reach an overseas voter.
Among the states surveyed, California had 30,000 “lost” votes out of 103,000 ballots mailed out. An additional 3,000 ballots were returned as undeliverable and 4,000 were rejected.
And that is exactly the issue McCain was trying to address in VA, where it was CLEAR that the fault lay with those responsible for mailing out the ballots. They failed to do so in a timely manner, especially considering the length of time it takes for the ballots to be received overseas.
So, what is the plan to correct this unacceptable situation? Well, this:
The hearing was to take up possible problems in the Federal Voting Assistance Program, a Pentagon program that handles the election process for military personnel and other overseas voters.
Oh, whew. I feel better now. That should take care of it, right? Ahem.
This just boggles my mind. Come to think of it, this isn’t just unacceptable, it is a breach of trust with those who are serving in our military abroad. They should be able to know that if they ask for an absentee ballot, they will receive it in a timely fashion. And, they should be able to know that their vote cast is a vote counted. We all should be able to trust that. Clearly, not only can those serving and living abroad not be able to trust in that, even when they do all that is required of them to cast that vote, but we cannot either. Not now, not with electronic voting machines, and not with rampant voter fraud. Something has to change, and it has to change now. At the very, very least, we all, every American, should be able to know with CERTAINTY that the vote we cast is counted, first of all, but counted correctly, second of all. And those who put their lives on the line for us deserve that at the very least.
Twenty five percent. 25%. One-fourth, 1/4th, of the votes not counted. Simply unacceptable.