October 29, 2008 – The Barack Obama campaign is urging state election officials to make an extra effort to count all military absentee votes, even though most of those votes might be expected to support the Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
In an Oct. 27 letter to the top election officials in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Robert Bauer, general counsel for the Obama for America organization, asks states to make an extra effort to count absentee ballots cast by service members.
The letters come despite recognition by senior Obama campaign officials that many military voters – possibly a majority of military voters – are more likely to vote for Republican presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain rather than Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois.
“A military voter who is timely registered with the state and has submitted his or her federal write-in absentee ballot by the state’s deadline should be in no doubt that their vote will be counted,” Bauer says in the letters.
One state already has had a legal battle over military ballots. Virginia election officials initially balked at accepting federal write-in ballots because the federal form omits one piece of information required under state election laws – the address of the people witnessing the voter signing the ballot.
Election officials decided Sunday that federal ballots would be allowed because the blank write-in ballots are authorized by a federal law that trumps state election procedures.
Bauer addressed the issue in his letter, saying military men and women “must have every confidence” that their voting rights are protected.
The McCain campaign staff turned the absentee ballot problem in Fairfax County, Va., into a national issue that helped lead to a quick resolution. In McCain’s case, absentee votes from military people could make the difference in what polls show could be a very tight race in Virginia.
Obama has an overall lead of 52 percent to 44 percent over McCain in a Washington Post poll released Tuesday. A Military Times survey showed a 3-to-1 margin of support for McCain over Obama among service members and retirees, an indication that McCain could expect to benefit from absentee voting by military personnel.