(The Hill) – A group of Republican senators said Monday that thousands of voter ballots are unlikely to reach military service members until after Nov. 6.
One day ahead of the election, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to express their concern over delays in ballots reaching military voters overseas.
“We write to express concerns over another serious failure by the Department of Defense (DoD) to safeguard the voting rights of our overseas military service members, which we believe could result in the imminent disenfranchisement of thousands,” the letter stated.
Mail redirection in the military can take between 14 to 50 days, meaning a ballot could reach the voter possibly more than a month after ballots have to be mailed back in order to be counted. The Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) identified problems with the system after the 2010 election, but hasn’t implemented changes.
“DoD’s failure to fix this longstanding problem means that the blank ballots of thousands of overseas service members, as well as some who have recently returned from overseas, could be currently trapped in an archaic and inefficient mail forwarding system,” the senators wrote. “These ballots are unlikely to reach these service members until after Election Day has passed.”
The senators advised Panetta to create a centralized mail redirection system and modernize military mail delivery.
“We are perplexed as to why DoD did not do everything in its power to modernize the system for redirecting blank ballots in order to eliminate this roadblock for military service members, per the top 2010 recommendations from MPSA,” the letter stated. “As we know you agree, they deserve to have a voice in choosing their elected leaders. Our men and women in uniform should be able to participate in the very same democratic system of government that they defend, not be relegated to mere spectator status because their ballot never reached them.”
The senators asked that a new mail system be in place by the next election, in 2014.