Absentee Voters Happy to Help Count

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CAMP MONTIETH, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Floridians serving with the U.S. Army in the Balkans are bursting with pride over prospects their absentee votes may provide the margin of victory for George W. Bush or Al Gore in the contentious Florida race.

And a few of them hope what whoever wins will remember them with a raise.

''I voted Republican and in case Bush wins, a raise would be nice,'' said Staff Sgt. Daniel Birdsong, 26, of Tampa, Fla., one of the 7,000 Americans serving in the Kosovo peacekeeping mission.

Birdsong is also one of an unknown number of Floridians serving in uniform overseas. With only hundreds of votes separating the two contenders in the Florida recount, those absentee ballots could push either Bush or Gore over the magic number of 270 electoral votes and into the White House.

''My vote definitely counts, and I hope that my vote will be the one to push George Bush over the hill,'' said First Sgt. Floyd A. Edwards, 38, of South Bay, Fla. ''I'm glad that it came down to this. I am glad that it came down to soldiers. So they are dependent now on soldiers to bring them over the hill. So they will take care of us. We took care of him.''

Sgt. Roosevelt Preston, 26, of Dade County, Fla., said he was proud that this time, his vote might really matter.

''This is the first time I think my vote makes a difference,'' he said. ''If somebody did not vote, now they wish that they had voted because that would have counted.''

One of those regretting nonvoters was Specialist Kevin Ashbaugh of Tampa, Fla.

''I did not vote and now I regret it,'' Ashbaugh said. ''I would have loved to be able to vote now. It looks like it is going to make a difference.''

Other U.S. troops interviewed in Kosovo and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where 4,500 American soldiers are also keeping the peace, said they voted for Bush, presuming that a GOP administration would increase defense spending.

That would mean better pay, housing and other benefits for men and women in uniform, they said.

''Bush is good for the military and while I'm in, he's good for me,'' said Specialist Kevin Grimsley of Dillon, S.C., based in Bosnia.

Chief Warrant Officer 2nd class Chris Jordan, a Texan and a medevac pilot in Bosnia, said he voted for his home state governor ''mainly on military issues.'' If Bush wins, he added, ''maybe now we'll get some spending on the military.''

But Bush supporters were of a mixed mind over whether they thought the Texas governor should remove U.S. troops from Balkan peacekeeping missions, as he has proposed.

''If Bush does win, I hope he takes us out of the Balkans,'' said Specialist Donald Gaines of Sacramento, Calif., who is stationed at Eagle Base in northern Bosnia. ''I think that's the best thing he can do. We're not peacekeepers. If we go somewhere, it should be for war. Only war.''

Back in Kosovo, Sgt. Edwards, a six-month veteran of the mission here, wasn't so sure.

''I do not believe that we are going to be pulled out of here,'' he said. ''It won't happen. Our mission here is still important. Bush will make good decisions before he deploys us, not a hasty decision to deploy us and then not know what to do.''

-- We Love You .Mil Guys! (kritter@adelphia.net), November 11, 2000



Increased military strength/spending = Strong USA

Four years of George Bush with three - four Supreme Court appointments to boot! YES!!!!

Ethics and morality return to the White House!


-- Ain't Gonna Happen (Not Here Not@ever.com), November 11, 2000.

Not all ballots will be Bush ballots, though.

Florida's diverse absentee voters take unfamiliar center stage

By Paul Richter, Judy Pasternak/Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

November 10, 2000

Web posted at: 3:11 p.m. EST (2011 GMT)


WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times) --The tight recount in Florida may give the last word on the presidential election to a relative handful of overseas voters who are eclectic, often conservative--and usually an electoral afterthought.

Several thousand ballots are expected from overseas absentee voters, who include a large concentration of military personnel, globe-trotting businesspeople and a smaller number of dual citizens living in Israel. They must have their ballots postmarked by Nov. 7 and received for counting by Nov. 17.

These voters historically have favored Florida Republicans, state officials said, and in 1996 gave GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole 54% of their vote, compared with the 43% he received statewide.

Republican officials have cited these trends when they have predicted that Texas Gov. George W. Bush will take most of the overseas absentee ballots. Yet Democratic campaign officials and some other analysts noted some other facts that could make the outcome less certain.

About 1,000 ballots, or more, may be received from Floridians living in Israel, a group that consists mostly of people holding dual citizenship and votes disproportionately Democratic. And the military vote could turn out to be less pro-Bush than expected, since enlisted personnel, who outnumber officers, 6 to 1, are more liberal than heavily Republican officers.

"Israel could help decide it," said Gideon Remez, foreign affairs editor of Israel Radio, to his listeners as they woke up Wednesday to one of the tightest presidential races in U.S. history.

Florida has a heavy concentration of military personnel and installations, including seven major Navy and five large Air Force bases. But Florida is also frequently chosen as legal residences by military personnel who live in other states because it lacks a state income tax.

The Air Force includes 5,200 personnel from Florida assigned in Europe and an additional 4,300 in the Pacific theater. Since the "all volunteer" Army began in the early 1970s, the Pentagon has tried hard to get its soldiers to vote in hopes of strengthening the bond between the military and civilian society.

Military perhaps not a lock for Bush

The Clinton administration has had a rocky relationship with the military, in part because of President Clinton's avoidance of military service. Surveys show that many career military personnel believe that the administration has starved armed services budgets.

Yet some analysts contended that the troops may be more sympathetic to Democrats than it appears. They noted that the military has a disproportionately large number of minority members, who lean Democratic. About 37% of the active-duty force is nonwhite.

Charles Moskos, a Northwestern University sociologist who specializes in military studies, surveyed Army enlisted personnel in September that were deployed in Kosovo, Yugoslavia. He found that 32% described themselves as liberal, 44% as "middle of the road" and 24% as conservative.

One U.S. airman from Florida at the big Ramstein Air Base in Berlin said that, among the Air Force personnel he knew, the split was "about 50-50."

"The older guys are more Bush; the younger guys are more Gore," said Cedric Clark, a supporter of Vice President Al Gore who told Reuters that he was "on pins and needles" over the election.

There are about 85,000 registered American voters in Israel at any one time, according to David Froehlich, U.S. voting coordinator in Israel for the Federal Voter Commission. He said that they vote Democratic by a lopsided majority.

Of that number, an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 are Floridians, according to Democrats Abroad, a group that promotes absentee voting by party members.

Froehlich noted that American absentee voters in Europe, in contrast to those in Israel, lean strongly Republican. That's one reason, he said, that the Ronald Reagan administration began distributing at embassies a generic ballot that Americans could use to vote without arranging to have a form sent from their home states.

This year both parties put considerable effort and money into trying to get out the vote among the 6 million Americans living abroad.

Republicans Abroad, a Washington-based group that spent $600,000 on advertising and other activities, registered 3,000 GOP members, including about 1,200 based in Florida, according to Michael J. Jones, the group's executive director.

"We had our act together this year, big time," he said.

He contended that 70% of the overseas absentee American ballots were from Republicans, though Tom Fina, executive director of Democrats Abroad, called that claim "hogwash."

But American absentee voters from both parties said they were delighted to find themselves in a position to make a difference.

"Who would think the election might come down to a male model in Milan?" marveled 26-year-old Jamie Kelly, who is just that in Italy.

Thirty days ago, he said, he mailed his ballot to the Pinellas County election supervisor in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he grew up.

But he isn't sure if his vote for Gore will count. What he sent was a federal write-in form because he had not yet received the Pinellas County ballot he had requested.

Two days before the election, the Pinellas County document arrived but "I thought I had this taken care of," he said, so it sat on his kitchen table.

Election night, he stayed up watching Florida go blue to yellow to red to yellow on CNN's big map. A friend urged him to make sure his ballot had arrived on time.

He called--about 6:30 a.m. his time and half an hour after election day had ended in Florida. He was told, to his dismay, that the write-in form he'd sent was invalid because Pinellas had sent him the only ballot he could lawfully use.

He rushed to fill out the form and hurried to the post office, where he faced a typical Italian long line. He had to get to work so he had another friend take the ballot to the U.S. consulate.

But of course, it was Nov. 8 by then.

Ballot makes shaky trip 'across the water'

Leigh Gribble, a 45-year-old defense consultant based in Kuwait, filled out his absentee ballot last week while visiting his parents north of Daytona Beach. But he hand-carried a second form back "across the water" to his wife and she sent hers back to Flagler County via a private delivery service. Both Gribbles voted for Bush.

On Monday, Gribble noted with alarm that the delivery agency's tracking service showed his wife's ballot stuck in Brussels. But on election day, he was assured by the company that her vote had gotten to the right place on time.

"It's pretty amazing and it's pretty exciting," Gribble said. "It really hits home that every vote counts."

He thinks the Gribbles may be the ones to decide the election--"as we say over here, inshallah [God willing]."

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), November 11, 2000.

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