Some soldiers unable to vote

Secretary of State Matt Blunt is considering whether e-mail is an option for those serving overseas.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:25 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Some Missouri soldiers stationed in Iraq were unable to vote in last week’s elections because of trouble getting absentee ballots.

As a result, Secretary of State Matt Blunt’s office said Monday that it is exploring whether overseas soldiers could e-mail their ballots for the Nov. 2 general election. Blunt is awaiting a determination from the Department of Defense, spokesman Spence Jackson said.

The possibility of e-mailed ballots was brought to Blunt’s attention by Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, a combat engineer stationed in Iraq with the National Guard’s 1140th Engineering Battalion.

In a telephone interview , Avery said none of the 21 soldiers in his squad received absentee ballots in time to vote in the Aug. 3 primary elections. Some never received ballots at all, he said. The few who did had no access to a fax machine and not enough time remaining to mail them back, Avery said.

“I feel like I was disenfranchised as a voter,” said Avery, who got his ballot about a week before the election and never sent it back. “I’m keeping it as a souvenir, as a reminder to me when I get back of the legislation that needs to be filed to take care of the situation for the future.”

Avery is from St. Louis County. Of the 795 military absentee ballots mailed out from St. Louis County, just 317 were returned by election day, said David Welch, a county election director, who did not know the reason for the response rate.

Many of the other soldiers in Avery’s Farmington-based squad are from St. Francois County.

St. Francois County Clerk Mark Hedrick said absentee ballots were mailed about a week later than usual because of the uncertainty over whether an amendment banning gay marriage would appear on the August ballot. The Supreme Court eventually said it should.

Hedrick said his office mailed 13 absentee ballots to Iraq, but none were returned with votes. Eight were returned to the clerk’s office as undeliverable, and Hedrick then was told to send the ballots to the unit’s Farmington office — but only a few days remained until the election.

Other than Avery’s e-mail, the secretary of state’s office had not received other reports of military members unable to vote, Jackson said.

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