In doing so, the president endorsed a scenario where thousands of servicemen – actively defending their country – would be disenfranchised by having their legal votes rejected.
In each election, many votes arrive late – legally – from Americans who are abroad or located outside of their state of residence, including a significant number of absent voters who are military personnel and their families.
“We’re just saying that we think it’s important that every ballot be counted and especially those of the men and women of service who serve this country.” They do so much for us and they deserve to know that their voices are heard.
Casey voted out of Iraq in the 2004 presidential election and remembers voting as absent several times while stationed away from his home state, Virginia. He is now one of many retired military leaders who are lending their voice to Count Every Hero, a bipartisan initiative to ensure military votes are counted.
How military voting works
Often, military personnel spend time and money overcoming obstacles that their civilian counterparts typically spared in order to ensure that their ballot is counted.
“Military voters have to work very hard to vote,” said Sarah Streyder, founder of Military Vote Coalition, a non-profit organization endorsed by major veterans and military organizations that works with military personnel and their spouses to make sure they can vote.
“It’s a complicated registration and submission process. I know people who had to pay over $ 50 just for an overnight provisional ballot because their official ballots never reached them on time. ”
Streyder ticked off several examples: a military wife who lives in Texas, where her husband is stationed, but who votes in her home state of Pennsylvania; spouses who live in Japan but vote in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Georgia.
“It’s demoralizing,” she said of the president’s attack on legal ballots that arrive after election day.
Military families typically move to new duty stations every few years, including overseas. Since September 11, service members have been more likely to deploy, often multiple times, and have voted in the millions from war zones, overseas posts and states where they temporarily reside.
In Georgia, military personnel serving away from home, both in the United States and overseas, have until close of business Friday to have their ballots received, provided they have been postmarked on or before polling day.
In Nevada, postmarked ballots on election day can be received until November 10.
Some states have time limits for receiving ballots but do not require a postmark, due to differences in how mail is handled at home and abroad, especially at military installations or in combat zones.
Pennsylvania and North Carolina are two examples.
In Pennsylvania, these mail-in ballots must be signed the day before the election and received by November 10. Postmark is not required. In North Carolina, home to some of the nation’s most frequently deployed armed forces, that deadline is even later: November 12 without a postmark.
As explained by the Federal Voting Assistance Program, a voter assistance and education program created by the Department of Defense, “due to the varying hours of mail pickup on the day you ‘mail’ your electoral mail may not be on the day the postal establishment posts it. You can ask the mail clerk to hand stamp the election materials so that a date is clearly visible. In some situations, a handwritten postmark and the signature of you or a notary may be sufficient. ”
“Missing” ballots in Georgia
Trump has also suggested, without proof, that military ballots are “missing” in Georgia, implying that the votes would tip the scales in his favor.
“Where are the missing military ballots in Georgia?” What happened to them? The president tweeted on Friday.
He appears to be referring to the 8,410 postal ballots in Georgia that were requested and sent to military personnel, their families, and other foreign voters – but not received by the state.
There is no indication that these votes are missing. The state of Georgia will count those ballots, as long as they arrive at close of business on Friday, as they did with the 18,008 military and foreign votes already received and counted in the state.
“It will be more than 0 and less than 8,410,” said Gabriel Sterling, responsible for implementing the voting system for Georgia’s secretary of state on Friday afternoon.
Some of these bulletins are probably still in transit. Many of these have been requested but have never been released, which is not unusual.
In 2016, polling stations across the country mailed 950,836 postal ballots to military and foreign voters, but received only 623,577 of those votes, according to the federal Voting Assistance Program.
Three percent of ballots received were rejected, mainly because they did not arrive on time. Those that were not returned were presumed to have been requested but not cast.
Military support for Trump
The question also arises as to whether the votes of the military and their families would benefit Trump, as the president suggested. This hypothesis may not be a reality.
Traditionally, military votes have biased conservatives, but the military, increasingly, is not politically monolithic.
“In 2000, Republicans fought to have military ballots counted in this presidential election. They had a hunch, and were right, that the ballots were reliably Republican in most cases, ”said Tara Copp, national military correspondent and McClatchy veterans. , on CNN right now. “But you have a whole new generation of servicemen who see 20 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and their political beliefs are pervasive. ”
A Military Times poll completed in August – a rare glimpse into the political views of active service members – found support for Trump had declined dramatically from 46% in 2016 to just under 38%. More members of the service said they would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden than Trump.
Beyond 2020, advocates are concerned about the long-term effect of Trump’s comments on the trust service members and their families have on the absentee voting process that many of them use.
“I spend every day fighting an uphill battle convincing my military friends that voting is worth it because there is this pernicious myth that missing military ballots don’t count because people are used to what results are announced before the arrival of their ballots, ”Sarah Streyder told CNN. , even though the ballots of absent military personnel are ultimately reflected in the certified vote.
” Now [military families] are going to feel less confident that their votes are going to count and count because they are so dramatically undermined, ”she said.
This story has been updated with comments from retired Chief of Staff General George Casey.
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