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Armed Services Committee chairman calls for action on overseas military ballots

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said he was "distressed" by reports that absentee ballots from members of the military may not be counted because they lacked postmarks.

Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, raised the issue in a letter to Defense Secretary William Cohen on Friday.

"My Senate office, and those of other Senators, are receiving calls and e-mails from constituents alleging that local elections officials are being asked not to count absentee ballots from overseas military personnel and their families which do not bear postmarks, although those ballots were received in the voter's state by the deadline set by state law," the letter said.

"It is a fact, regrettably, that a number of absentee ballots from overseas U.S. military personnel do not bear a postmark," the senator continued, attributing the omissions to "human error."

"As Chairman of the Committee on Armed Services, I am deeply distressed that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines may lose their votes through no fault of their own," said Warner's letter.

The Pentagon had no immediate response to the letter and Cohen is currently traveling in the Persian Gulf region.

Military postal regulations require that a postmark be affixed.

"Fundamental principles of equity, long established in our jurisprudence, should be invoked to ensure that the ballots of our overseas military personnel are counted despite the absence of a postmark, or some other technicality," Warner wrote.

The issue was also raised in a separate letter from Navy Captain E.M. DuCom -- who is deputy director of the Military Postal Service Agency -- to a Palm Beach, Florida, law firm. "There are instances when time constraints do not allow for proper postmarking/cancellation of the mail," DuCom wrote.

DuCom added that he has "personally received mail through the MPS (Military Postal System) with no postmarking."


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Saturday, November 18, 2000

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