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Report Says NY Leaves Troops Abroad “No Time To Vote”

January 7, 2009

New York, NY — U.S. troops may be overseas fighting to protect our freedom, but a new report says those soldiers' right to vote is not being protected. It says one-third of states, including New York, do not provide enough time for military personal stationed overseas to get their ballots in. The No Time to Vote report by the Pew Center on the States says New York is one of only three states that relies entirely on the postal system to transmit ballots.

David Becker, Pew's Make Voting Work project director, says it takes about 13 days longer for the military overseas mail to get to New York than the state allows for absentee balloting. The result, he says, is too many New Yorkers who are serving overseas are not getting to cast a ballot.

"When our servicemen and women don't have enough time to vote, their votes often don't count, and who can deny that they have as much right as any citizen to express their voices in our democracy?"

Becker says one easy step New York could take would be to send blank ballots out by email or fax, and that would give our soldiers more time to return them and meet the deadline.

Right now, New York puts too much emphasis on a speedy official vote tally, according to Neal Rosenstein, the government reform coordinator of the New York Public Interest Research Group. He says New York lawmakers could help our troops by relaxing the rules on when absentee ballots must arrive.

"To say that ballots have to be back a week after the election or even two weeks after the election is guaranteeing a lot of folks aren't going to make it on time. New York could just be extending the deadline and saying we're going to accept ballots that come in a little later."

The report is timely, says Rosenstein, because Governor Paterson is currently looking at ways to improve absentee balloting for soldiers and other New Yorkers who are abroad on Election Day.

The full report is on web at
www.prewtrusts.org

Michael Clifford/Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY