The Absentee Military Voter is MIA Count US In Asks, "Who Counts -- and Who Doesn't in the Upcoming Elections?"

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Military absentee ballots are not properly counted in our archaic and cumbersome process. While the National Defense Committee and a few State Representatives are attempting to change the system, progres is slow, prompting growing concern about the upcoming election. A new non-profit, non-partisan group, Count US In, is working to help and backs efforts by Rep. Roy Blunt. Count US In also asks the American voter to help in this grass roots effort.

We can understand the frustration of the disenfranchised military voter

The US Military is stationed around the world--many in close quarters combat--defending our rights and the rights of others. The US military--their vote, their voice--should be heard--but an archaic absentee voting system often silences that voice. Count US In, Inc. a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded by concerned veterans is asking that the US voter assist the active military by becoming active in the upcoming elections.

Rep. Roy Blunt, (R-Mo) recently introduced a resolution, requiring that the Defense Department better enable U.S. military personnel overseas to vote in the November elections. Count US In, supports Blunt's resolution and is a champion in the cause to simplify the system and educate the military voter. This organization is staging a grass-roots effort via its website, http://www.countusin.us, to reach members of the US military, their families and veterans. "Changing the process may happen" says LTC Don Johnson US Army (ret), founder of Count US In, "However, we emphasize the more immediate message, 'Your vote is your voice--use it!'"

Johnson is asking US voters to encourage their elected representatives to support Blunt's resolution and its website provides information on how to do so. The 2008 election is especially important to the U.S. Military, as it selects a new Commander in Chief. Yet the current process shows little improvement from the debacles of 2000 and 2004 when thousands of military votes were uncounted due to technical military mail delivery issues--including missed deadlines.

"It is a scandal that in the 21st Century, we are still conducting absentee voting largely as we did during World War II--by sending absentee ballot applications and ballots across oceans and continents by snail mail," says Captain Samuel F. Wright US Navy (ret.) Director of the Military Voting Rights Project, National Defense Committee. Wright notes that the military transfers classified information and businesses transmit billions of dollars every day by secure electronic means, "It should be possible to implement a system enabling deployed military personnel to vote electronically, with assurance that their ballots will indeed by counted," he added.

The inability of the Department of Defense to ensure the military vote is supported by recent analysis conducted by the federal Election Assistance Commission, which rejects Defense Department voting claims as inflated, and shows a much lower percentage of participation. The EAC estimated absentee military voting for the 2006 midterm elections at a disgracefully low 5.5 percent, a fraction of the 1.5 million active duty members of the Armed Forces, of which approximately 400,000 serve outside the U.S. in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Europe, and ships at sea. Mailing for this hyper-mobile population is not just inconvenient, it is often impossible.

"We can understand the frustration of the disenfranchised military voter," says Johnson, "But we maintain that the military needs to vote and tell the US government to 'Count US In.' We need the help of those who enjoy the right to vote, in part because our troops--past and present -- protect that right. We ask voters, families of the active military and veterans to go to http://www.countusin.us and follow the steps to make a difference."

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Marilyn DeMartini

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