WASHINGTON: As vote counting continues to determine the next president of the United States, attention is turning to the role that military and foreign mail-in votes will play in the final outcome. In razor-like states, this could be significant.
The country has long ensured that active duty military personnel can vote regardless of where they are.
President Abraham Lincoln issued an order during the Civil War allowing troops to return home to vote if they could not vote by mail. States have implemented remote voting at military encampments, and some have allowed troops to designate a proxy who could vote on their behalf, reports the Congressional Research Service.
In 1942, Congress passed the first law guaranteeing the right to vote in federal elections to members of the Armed Forces absent during wartime. Fast forward to 2009, when Congress passed a bill requiring states to set up a system to deliver mail-in ballots to military and civilian voters who were overseas during federal elections.
WHY DO MILITARY BALLOTS ALWAYS COME IN?
Most service members away from home send in an absentee ballot, and those from overseas take, on average, about six days, according to a report by Count Every Hero, a nonpartisan group committed to ensuring the protection of the military suffrage.
The group says 28 states and the District of Columbia accept and count ballots that arrive from overseas after Election Day. They include Georgia, which accepts them up to three days after the election as long as they are postmarked before Election Day. North Carolina accepts them until November 12; and Nevada and Pennsylvania through Nov. 10.
COULD MILITARY BALLOTS INFLUENCE RESULTS IN ANY OF THE STATES NOT YET CALLED?
Perhaps. In the 2016 presidential election, Georgia received over 5,600 ballots from uniformed service members; North Carolina received nearly 11,000; Pennsylvania received nearly 7,800 and Nevada about 2,700, according to the United States Election Assistance Commission. In Georgia’s extremely thin election, the secretary of state’s office said as many as 8,900 ballots that were forwarded to military and foreign voters could still arrive when the polls close Friday.
President Donald Trump tweeted “Stop the count!” on Thursday as results showed him well ahead in various battleground states. If the states had complied, they would have prevented thousands of people serving in the military from having their votes counted.
“Any attempt to stop the vote count or disqualify mail-in ballots will disproportionately affect military voters,” said Jack Noland, research director of Count Every Hero.