Fuss over state's military ballots is nonsense

The law requires a 45-day window to receive and return ballots. Washington allows at least a 51-day window.

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Washington state's Republican Party has joined Fox News in being outraged over Secretary of State Sam Reed's handling -- or, as they contend, mishandling -- of military and overseas ballots.

It is their outrage that's outrageous.

Reed, a Republican, has long been a champion for voters. He and his staff have worked hard to make sure as many people as possible have their votes counted.

Yet, the GOP and Fox are all over Reed because his office applied for -- and received -- a waiver exempting Washington from a new federal law requiring military and overseas ballots to be mailed 45 days before the Nov. 2 election. The critics are trying to paint Reed as someone who wants to disenfranchise troops overseas.

The Republican State Committee approved Saturday a resolution saying: "Failure to comply with this federal law will almost certainly result in disenfranchising the votes of our brave men and women serving in the military, who risk their lives protecting the voting rights of all Americans."

Republicans and conservatives are sensitive to this issue, and perhaps for good reason. Democrats and liberals aren't thrilled when military ballots decide a close election as soldiers tend to be young, male and conservative.

But that has zero to do with why Reed's office asked for the waiver.

If these folks would take the time to look at the facts, it would be clear to them that Reed and his staff are advocates for military voters.

The Defense Department granted the waiver to Washington because it is clear steps are taken to make sure overseas troops receive every opportunity to vote.

Washington wanted the waiver because there simply isn't much time between the Aug. 17 primary and the Sept. 18 deadline to mail the military ballots. If a primary race is close it might take weeks to determine a winner, which will delay the printing of the ballot.

Still, many of the 39 county auditors' offices will get the ballot mailed by the deadline. The waiver is simply a precaution in case some of the larger counties fall a day or two short of compliance.

Having those ballots sent out a few days late is not a big problem because Washington requires its ballots be postmarked by election day. Ballots with the proper postmarked don't have to be received until Nov. 23.

So, even if an auditor's office in Washington state didn't get ballots out until Oct. 3 -- the last permissible day under the waiver -- military voters would have a 51-day window to get their ballot in.

We believe we have one of the strongest programs in the country for overseas and military voters, and that we provide opportunities above and beyond most states," state Elections Director Nick Handy said.

In the 2008 election 99 percent of overseas voters who voted had their ballot counted.

This attack on Reed and his election department is political nonsense.

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