Wednesday, September 29, 2004

They Love a Man in a Uniform 

We mentioned a couple of days ago that Honest Don Rumsfeld and his Pentagon pards had been cooking up new ways to diddle the overseas vote. The NYT here recaps a few of the many impediments to casting your absentee ballot from abroad, including an internet voting site that works for military personnel (mostly Republicans) but not for civilians (mostly Democrats):
Election officials concede that tens of thousands of Americans overseas might not get ballots in time to cast votes. Late primaries and legal wrangling caused election offices in at least 8 of the 15 swing states to fail to mail absentee ballots by Sept. 19, a cutoff date officials say is necessary to ensure that they can be returned on time, a survey by The New York Times shows. In Florida in 2000, late-arriving ballots became a divisive issue when some were counted and others were disqualified.

The tardy ballots are just one of several setbacks or missteps that have affected the ability of the estimated 4.4 million eligible voters overseas to participate in the presidential election. Some have been unable to send their registrations to a Pentagon contractor's computers, which are clogged by thousands of voter forms. Others were denied access to a Web site designed to help Americans abroad vote. And many voters simply have had trouble navigating the rules and methods that determine how and when to register and vote and that vary by state.

"I found it so convoluted I gave up," says Alex Campos, a management consultant in London who repeatedly tried to register using the Pentagon program, without success.

To help speed the balloting process, federal officials activated a new system last week in which voters can obtain absentee ballots instantly through the Internet. But the Web site, myballot.mil, will be offered only to members of the military and their families, quickly raising concerns about fairness in a program that the Pentagon has been directed to run for civilians as well. In addition, 23 states have already declined to join the system for various reasons, including security, according to Pentagon and state officials.

"There is no favoritism," said Scott Wiedmann, the program's deputy director, adding that the new system must be limited to the military because the identities only of service members can be verified . . . .

There is also little polling of the 3.9 million civilians abroad. But last month, a Zogby poll of Americans who had passports found that they supported John Kerry over Mr. Bush, 58 percent to 35 percent.

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