Thousands of absentee ballots cast by military service personnel often go uncounted, according to election experts who say the problem has always existed but is even more of an issue in presidential election years.
“The problem has always existed, given the high degree of mobility of our fighting forces,” Eric Eversole, founder and executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project, told the Dayton Daily News
The project, which tracks military votes, found in 2010 that only 4.5 percent of the 2 million military and overseas voters reported to the Election Assistance Commission were able to cast absentee ballots that were actually counted. Meanwhile, the overall national voter participation rate for the 2010 election was 41.6 percent.
Eversole said the problem exists because state election officials have difficulty keeping track of military voters because they are frequently deployed or move from base to base. That means that ballots are often sent to the wrong addresses, lost in the mail, or arrive at state election offices too late to be counted.
The problem is worse in presidential elections years when more people vote.
Congress in 2009 enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act to help resolve some of the problems. The law requires states to send out ballots to military personnel no later than 45 days before an election and requires states to use fax, e-mail or online delivery to speed things up.
In 2010, the Pentagon also initiated a program that prioritizes ballots for delivery to elections officials.
A number of states, including Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia have instituted a tracking program that lets military personnel know whether their ballots were received back home and, in Ohio, actually confirm that it was counted.
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