Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell Too Late For Absentees

While watching Colin Powell join the Obama endorsement crowd that is growing in the GOP I remembered what I heard in the last, 2006, campaign about military voting. One member of the military that I met in Dr. Glenn Melancon's campaign told me he was only able to vote in 2004 because he had happened to be here on leave then. Because of the TX redistricting scandal, absentee ballots weren't mailed out - because the districts were undefined - until after the date they needed to be mailed back in.

I checked and found that, as I had suspected, Gen. Powell's endorsement came after the date that overseas ballots should have been mailed back in. Last week, October 11 - 15, was Absentee Voting Week for the military serving abroad.

There are other problems with voting overseas. The military votes counted in 2006 reached only 30% of those cast.

Voting in this election is particularly important, she (Army Capt. Holly Landes) said, "because it's a difference between staying in and pulling out ... So it would be nice if it were a little easier and they had more confidence in the system."

Her concerns are mild in comparison to comments from reservists far from active duty, who can comment publicly without fear of reprimand.

"Why are we imposing on military personnel a system that is more onerous than the ones civilians use?" asked Bob Carey, a senior fellow at the National Defense Committee, a private advocacy group. Carey, a 23-year Navy reservist who participated in Desert Storm, blames politicians and Pentagon bureaucracy with failing to find a process that works.

"I can speak out," Carey said. "The active duty soldier duty soldier cannot. They are not allowed to publicly chastise their superiors, with good reason. It's called mutiny."

Voting problems have been around since the Truman administration, Carey said. "This has been going on for 50 years and nothing has changed. Politicians and elected officials have not done anything. The DOD (Department of Defense) has said there is no problem."

This is how military overseas voting works: A registered voter must request, in writing, an absentee ballot from the local election district where he or she last lived. That can take up to 30 days. The soldier waits to receive a paper absentee ballot, then fills it out and mails it back. That can take another 30 days.

There is a long list of things that can wrong with that process — starting with mail getting lost in the U.S. Postal Service or in the Military Postal Service Agency, which ships correspondence by military channels. Mail can sit undelivered if heavy fighting stops supply convoys, or if limited space requires something more important be delivered — ammunition, for example. And because the military is often on the move, ballots can arrive on bases where soldiers are no longer assigned.

Carey favors Internet voting — something the Pentagon championed in 2004 only to abandon after spending $25 million and meeting critics who said online ballots were vulnerable to fraud.
"You can send a billion dollars by secure electronic means. The Pentagon can send top-secret information by secure electronic means," he said. "But your ballot still has to go by snail mail."

The role that Gen. Powell has played in the disgraces the right wing has brought on this country is a major one, and many still believe that without his representation of it, the occupied White House could never have persuaded Congress to authorize misused war powers for the Iraqi war. His endorsement comes at a time when it is obvious the next administration will be Democratic. The timing of this endorsement is blatantly useless.

What a sad story this one has become.


Quotes from 1929:

"The market is following natural laws of economics and there is no reason why both prosperity and the market should not continue for years at this high level or even higher."

– from a "Wall Street Analysis" by Thomas C. Shotwell in The World Almanac for 1929

"The economic condition of the world seems on the verge of a great forward movement."

– Bernard Baruch, financier and presidential adviser, in The American Magazine, June 1929

"The outlook for the fall months seems brighter

than at any time."

– The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 23, 1929

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powell disgraced himself before the war in Iraq. I am not sure that he ever was a hero for the military since his career was , by and large, as a politico. He isn't Wes Clark, Swartzkopf, Patreas, etc.

We have to learn to let go of celebrities of the past. No second chances for disgraced individuals. (These includes Ayers.)

9:16 AM  

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