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Recent Election Results Prove Every Vote Counts

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 1996 – Thousands of military voters are preparing for federal, state and local elections in November. Many of them may wonder whether their absentee ballots will affect elections in those districts.

Federal Voting Assistance Program officials at the Pentagon have results from past elections showing how the military vote -- via absentee ballot -- can determine elections at all levels.

  • In the 1994 federal elections, Rep. Jane Harman of California trailed challenger Susan Brooks by about 100 votes when the polls closed in the 36th Congressional District. However, after officials counted absentee ballots, Harman retained her House seat, winning by several hundred votes.
  • In Oregon, Rep. Jim Bunn was losing to his opponent in the state's 5th Congressional District in 1994 until election officials counted the absentee ballots. The absentee count gave Bunn a 7,000 vote victory, returning him to Congress.
  • The absentee ballot process also works at the local level. In 1993, Jane Hague, county records and election manager for King County (Seattle), Wash., resigned and ran for the Bellevue district seat on the King County Council. Her opponent had the edge in a close race as the election day count finished, but Hague narrowly won after officials counted absentee ballots -- Hague became the council chair not long after her victory.

Absentee voters are already affecting this year's elections -- proof that absentee ballots determine state primaries as well as federal elections. In the race for California's 50th Congressional District last March, Republican candidate Jim Baize appeared to have lost his party's nomination to run against incumbent Democrat Bob Filner this November. He trailed by 26 votes in the primary -- until the absentee ballots gave him a lead of nearly 150 votes.

Voting program officials said most military installations worldwide recently held voter registration weeks to get service members registered to vote in their home states. They said each state has different requirements for voter registration and advised registering now. Unit voting officers should consult the Federal Voting Guide for 1996-97 to help service members register on time for Election Day.

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