Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for July 6, 2008--“Military and Overseas Absentee Ballots Must be Counted”

Posted on July 3, 2008

As we celebrate our country's independence on July 4th, we should especially honor the men and women in uniform who work every day to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, including our right to elect our own leaders and choose the direction of our country. It’s scandalous that nearly half of the ballots submitted by our servicemen and women in the military and overseas weren’t counted in the last election. That’s why I’ve cosponsored the Military Voting Protection Act of 2008 which would provide new tools to make sure that completed absentee ballots from members of the Armed Forces make it home in time to be tallied. The men and women of our armed forces especially deserve to be heard. Nearly half of the one million absentee ballots submitted by our servicemen and women serving in the military or overseas in 2006 never reached election officials to be counted. This legislation would call on the Department of Defense to oversee the process to make it easier to collect and transport the ballots of military and overseas voters. It also authorizes the Defense Department to contract with services like FedEx and UPS to expedite the shipping of ballots beginning in 2008. Part of the problem is that the military is spread out in countries throughout the world, and voting in U.S. elections is a local process handled by individual counties in every state across the country. But the military has great logistics expertise. Involving the Defense Department in part of the process will make a big difference. It’s unacceptable that in the 2006 elections, 660,000 overseas ballots, including military men and women and civilians abroad, were not counted — 47.6 percent of overseas military ballots were completely left out of the voting process. Congress must work to ensure this won’t happen again, and that’s why I’ve decided to support this bill to protect the voice of our servicemen and women. This Independence Day weekend, let’s celebrate the rich history of our great nation and remember how fortunate we are to have so many brave men and women protecting the freedoms we enjoy every day. ###