| Fedele Ferrara

Study shows two-thirds of U.S. military lacks confidence in election system

A federal report conducted after the 2014 general election and publicized this week shows two-thirds of U.S. military service members lack confidence in the American voting system.

Asked if they were confident their ballot would be counted in November 2014, only 33 percent of military members agreed, according to the survey by the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). The report was distributed Monday by the National Conference of State Legislatures  at an annual legislative summit in Chicago.

FVAP Director Matt Boehmer told AMI Newswire the issue is not new.

“I believe it stems from the myth that absentee ballots are only considered (and) counted in close elections,” Boehmer said. “This may be a lingering side effect from the 2000 presidential election and other close elections which intensify the scrutiny placed upon military and overseas ballots. In reality, all absentee ballots submitted timely are processed.”

The survey included 12,620 members evenly split between the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and certain National Guard and Reserve members. The confidence level was highest among Coast Guard members, 39 percent of whom said they were confident their ballot was counted, and lowest in the Marine Corps, where only 29 percent expressed such confidence.

Also in the survey: Fifty-six percent of military members thought the process of requesting and receiving a ballot was too confusing.

Boehmer said FVAP is working with the Council of State Governments – a private, non-partisan think-tank that coordinates state government news and legislative action. The council has recommended that local election officials confirm to military and overseas voters that their ballot was received and where it is in the process.

FVAP is a voter outreach program run by the Department of Defense, designated for service members, eligible family members, and overseas citizens. It disseminates information about voting rights and resources and has partnerships throughout the federal government and all U.S. states and territories, and works especially close with state legislatures, the U.S. Postal Service and the Military Postal Service.

Dan Diorio, a policy specialist in the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Elections Program, said FVAP appears to be doing all it can to address the problem “by recognizing the mobility and complexity of military life.”

“By doing simple things, like providing a confirmation of voter registration or confirmation that a ballot is received, election officials can easily deliver high customer satisfaction,” Diorio said. “It also includes things like getting election officials to visit military bases so they can understand the day-to-day life of a service member.”

Diorio said FVAP is also trying to promote earlier efforts by military voters to register, receive their ballots, and understand the recommended mailing dates. Officials are also trying to improve the availability of automatic and online voter registration systems to military members.

The prospect of a November general election with tainted or uncounted ballots made headlines last week, starting with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s declaration in an Aug. 2 interview with The Washington Post that, “if the election is rigged, I would not be surprised … The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.”

Trump made similar comments at an Ohio rally the day before, saying plainly that “the election is going to be rigged.”

President Barack Obama himself fired back at a press conference on Friday, calling the claim “ridiculous.”

"Of course the election won't be rigged. What does that mean?" Obama said. "If Mr. Trump is suggesting that there is a conspiracy theory that is propagated across the country, including in places like Texas where typically it is not Democrats who are in charge of voting booths, that's ridiculous. That doesn't make any sense.

"If Mr. Trump is up 10 or 15 points on Election Day and he ends up losing, then, you know, maybe he can raise some questions. That doesn't seem to be the case at the moment."