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Pentagon report fails to address key question in voting controversy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Pentagon report released Friday uncovered no "systemic" problems with the Military Postal Service during last year's election, but failed to examine the key question of whether military ballots were postmarked as required by regulation.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Abell said the question of whether military ballots were postmarked did not come under the charter of the Department of Defense inspector general's audit.

"That was not the purpose of this audit by the inspector general. The purpose of this audit was to determine the effectiveness of the military voting assistance program and the handling within the military postal system," Abel said.

Asked about the limited scope of the audit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "The review was initiated prior to my arrival here, and its scope was what it was, and to extent its scope need to be broadened, we will certainly take that under advisement. I have not had a chance to personally read the report."

In the aftermath of the November 2000 election there were complaints that many military absentee ballots were being disqualified for lack of dated postmarks.

U.S. military mail does not require postage, but is supposed to be postmarked, according to Capt. Eugene M. DuCom, deputy director of Military Postal Service Agency.

Abell said the Military Voter Assistance program worked well during the 2000 election. "In fact, we achieved a record high overseas military participation rate of about 72 percent."

"We do need to enhance the training and education of our military community, we need to involve the entire chain of command and we need to run a program that is consistent among the services and complies with the Department of Defense policies and procedures as we execute the program," Abell said.

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