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Bush campaign voices worry about military vote

President Bush’s campaign legal counsel said Friday litigation threatens to prevent overseas service members from receiving their absentee ballots in time for them to be filled out, sent home, and counted.
President Bush mingles with troops in Iraq last Thanksgiving.Larry Downing / Reuters file
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President Bush’s campaign legal counsel said Friday litigation threatens to prevent overseas service members from receiving their absentee ballots in time for them to be filled out, sent home, and counted.

If this were to happen, it would undercut the president’s advantage among military voters and affect the election in key toss-up states such as Colorado and Florida.

Campaign counsel Tom Josefiak cited Democratic lawsuits to knock independent candidate Ralph Nader off the ballot in several states, including Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin, all of which are hotly contested.

Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman accused the Democrats of pursuing “a litigation strategy” which could “prevent state and local election officials from printing and mailing ballots overseas, threatening to prevent our service men and women overseas, as well as other Americans abroad, from casting a vote that is actually counted.”

Confusion over Nader?
The state of Pennsylvania, Josefiak said, is sending out absentee ballots with the word “disqualified” printed under Nader’s name.

“The question is: Does it mean the ballot is disqualified or that that Nader is disqualified from the ballot? It’s confusing the troops that are getting these things,” Josefiak said.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Jano Cabrera responded to the charges from the Bush campaign by saying, “The reality here is this: State election officials feel they need to check Nader's signatures primarily because Republicans have spent millions trying to get Nader on the ballot."

As for delays in absentee ballots getting to overseas voters in time for them to be counted, Cabrera said, “We are totally committed to ensuring that every vote cast be counted.”

Mehlman said Florida and certain counties in Colorado had made special provisions for an extension of time for overseas military voters to send in their ballots. Unless other jurisdictions make similar provisions, he said, “There won’t be a sufficient window for the ballots to be filled out overseas and returned.”

Partly due to uncertainty about the counting of absentee ballots from overseas military personnel, “If it is a close election in any one state, it may be days or weeks before we know who the actual winner is,” Josefiak said.

Of the major Army bases in the United States, only one — Fort Carson, Colo. — is located in a state that pollsters consider a toss-up state. Some Fort Carson-based soldiers are now serving in Iraq.

There are major Navy bases in two battleground states: Maine and Florida. There are major Air Force bases in four toss-up states, Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and Colorado.

Survey shows Bush support
Mehlman and Josefiak made their comments about military voters as a new University of Pennsylvania National Annenberg Election Survey showed most military personnel and family members have a favorable view of Bush.

Sixty-nine percent of the military personnel and family members interviewed by Annenberg had a favorable opinion of Bush, while 23 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Only 29 percent saw Kerry favorably, while 54 percent were unfavorable.

From Sept. 22 through Oct. 5, Annenberg polled 655 adults who have either served on active duty between February and October or who were relatives of those who served. Their answers were compared to the responses of 2,436 adults interviewed by Annenberg.

The survey found that 94 percent of the military sample intends to vote in the presidential election, compared to 85 percent of the civilian population.

Nearly two-thirds of the Annenberg military sample said the Iraq situation had been worth going to war over, while 32 percent said it had not. In the general population, 45 percent said the war had been worth it; 51 percent said it had not.

The poll of 655 in the active military and their families was taken Sept. 22-Oct. 5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Kerry speculates abut a draft
Meanwhile, in a related matter, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told the Des Moines Register in an interview published Friday, “With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of a draft."

Bush has emphatically opposed re-introducing the draft and on Oct. 5 the House of Representatives, by a vote of 402-2, defeated a Democratic bill to revive the draft.

Mehlman called Kerry’s draft remarks “outrageous” in Friday’s conference call with reporters.

“The fact that Sen. Kerry continues to try to bring up what he knows to be false in order to try to frighten voters is … yet another example of a candidate who is willing to say anything,  including something he knows to be patently false, in order to get elected.”