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GOP: Washington jeopardizing votes of troops

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Aug. 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
August 31, 2010 12:51 pm

The state Republican Party says Washington should have to meet the same deadlines as other states for sending Nov. 2 election ballots to voters living overseas or serving in the military.

Washington obtained an exemption from new federal requirements last week, which Republicans say will “almost certainly result in disenfranchising the votes of our brave men and women serving in the military.”

But Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed‘s office, which applied for the waiver, says Washington’s unusual elections calendar allows nearly all ballots to return from far-flung locations in time to be counted. In the past two elections, 99 percent of overseas ballots sent back were counted.

“We believe we have one of the strongest programs in the country for overseas and military voters, and that we provide opportunities above and beyond most states,” Elections Director Nick Handy told me.

So why does the state need an exemption from federal law? States are supposed to send out ballots to overseas voters 45 days before the election, or Sept. 18 this year, as part of the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

Because of its late Aug. 17 primary, Washington told the feds it can’t meet the Sept. 18 deadline. Results from the primary won’t be certified until Sept. 7, leaving just 11 days to design thousands of different ballots across the state, print them and mail them.

Ten states with August and September primaries applied for waivers. Since then, Fox News has kept up a drumbeat of questioning over whether troops would be disenfranchised. Here are some of the reports compiled by the liberal Media Matters for America, which calls it a manufactured controversy:

Handy said elections officials received a lot of calls after the segments aired. “The phone call would usually begin, ‘Why do you hate military voters?’” he said.

In the end, the feds approved waivers for just five states, including Washington. The Associated Press has details.

Reed’s office says it will send out ballots by Oct. 3. Since unlike most states, Washington accepts completed ballots until Nov. 23 (as long as they’re signed by Election Day), that gives ballots a 51-day window to travel back and forth.

Here’s the resolution passed by the GOP’s State Committee:

The Washington State Republican Party State Committee condemns the Washington State Secretary of State’s decision to seek a waiver from the federal deadline for sending general election ballots to American Military personnel overseas.

Failure to comply with this federal law will almost certainly result in disenfranchising the votes of our brave men and women serving in the military, who risk their lives protecting the voting rights of all Americans.

The Washington State Republican Party requests the Secretary of State immediately reverse this decision and withdraw the waiver request.

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