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Cohen Directs IG to Examine Military Absentee Balloting

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2000 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has asked the DoD inspector general to look into problems concerning military absentee balloting.

Cohen ordered the inquiry following reports that many absentee ballots from service members were not counted because they lacked postmarks.

"The secretary's goal and his instruction to the IG is to make sure we have a system that makes every vote count," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said during a news conference Nov. 28. He said Cohen asked the IG to examine the process and recommend any changes to make it "more efficient, more fair, more inclusive and to make it easier."

In his instructions, Cohen asked the IG to examine current procedures for handling military ballots, standard cancellation and postmarking, and how those procedures are actually implemented.

One problem that disqualified military absentee ballots in Florida, for instance, was that they arrived without a postmark. Postmarks indicate where and when a piece of mail was sent. DoD postal regulations require all mail be postmarked, including postage-free mail such as absentee ballots. Military Postal Service Agency officials said the IG will obviously look into why so many ballots arrived without postmarks.

"Your review will serve as a basis for any changes that can and should be implemented by DoD in order to ensure that the voting rights of all U.S. military personnel are respected and that everything possible will be done to make sure that every vote counts," Cohen said in his written instructions to the IG.

There is no timetable for the IG to deliver a report.

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