The Pentagon official overseeing the program to assist servicemembers in voting said the number of absentee ballots requested by troops this year is greater than those sought in 2004, the last time an incumbent ran for re-election.
Pam Mitchell, acting director of the Federal Voter Assistance Program, told reporters that the program has received about 600,000 requests for absentee ballots for overseas military personnel or their family members -- 80,000 more requests than in 2004.
Mitchell rejected claims by the Military Voter Protection Project that military absentee voting has taken a nosedive, including in important swing states. An MVPP report claims absentee ballot requests are down by 47 percent in Florida and 70 percent in both Virginia and Ohio.
The number of absentee ballots requested this year is down from 2008 but Mitchell suggested that year was unique.
“We are below what was the case for 2008,” she said, “However, I think everyone would agree that there was a lot of excitement and a lot of turnout” in that race.
The 2008 contest was historic in that it was the first time that an African-American ran as a major party’s presidential nominee.
The Pentagon’s voter absentee voter registration efforts also were criticized by the Defense Department Inspector General in early September. An IG report found that it was able to contact only about half the 229 voting assistance offices that Congress mandated the military operate across the U.S. and overseas.
The IG called the program a waste of money and recommended the offices be closed.
Mitchell on Tuesday reiterated the Pentagon’s explanation that the IG probably ran up against changed or reassigned numbers.
“We are reaching out every single week to validate those phone numbers and emails for every one of these offices,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell dismissed claims being made by some that there are efforts to suppress the vote of servicemembers.
Some within the GOP, including candidate Mitt Romney, have used an ongoing lawsuit over early voting in Ohio to claim the Democrats are trying to cut back on voting privileges for the military. Several veteran and military organizations that have weighed in on the case say that is not true, but that has not stopped the allegations.
“No, we’ve heard no such concerns” from servicemembers, she said.