Absentee ballot push for military to make sure overseas votes count

Changes are needed in state election procedures to enable more U.S. military personnel stationed overseas to vote using absentee ballots, says a county legislator from Rome.

"Many of the troops are in war zones or may be out on patrols, preventing them from getting ballots in on time," said Patricia A. Hudak, D-29. "I would like to see an early balloting period for military and civilian employees working outside the United States."

Hudak has a daughter-in-law who is a second lieutenant in Army and is stationed in Afghanistan.

She said soldiers on overseas assignments "have the opportunity to vote, but as we are aware, many times their ballots do not arrive at local boards in time to be counted."

Indeed, a federal survey found that a scant one-third of the nearly one million absentee ballots requested for the 2006 U.S. general election by overseas American civilians or active-duty service members were actually cast or counted.

"The state does not allow for early balloting at this time and I believe it is time to consider doing so," the legislator said.

Absentee voting laws establishing procedures and timelines vary widely around the U.S. and are decided on a state level.

Hudak has written to state legislators from the county and Gov. David A. Paterson urging they act on her request. "My suggestion is to allow for an earlier mailing of absentee applications and an earlier return date," Hudak said. "Our local board of elections does a great job getting these ballots out on time; however, the board follows state law for the mailing time and they must count the ballots as written in the New York state election law."