HARRISBURG (AP) -- Pennsylvanians who are in the military or outside the United States on Election Day may find it easier to cast absentee ballots...

HARRISBURG (AP) -- Pennsylvanians who are in the military or outside the United States on Election Day may find it easier to cast absentee ballots this year, Gov. Ed Rendell said Monday.

In at least 34 of the state's 67 counties, including Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, such voters can obtain electronic copies of absentee ballots over the Internet through a new feature in the U.S. Defense Department's Federal Voting Assistance Program. That is faster than the mail that some counties still use to deliver the ballots, but the voters must still print out their ballots, mark their votes and mail them back to county officials.

"Every day, Pennsylvanians who are in the military and deployed in war zones around the world put their lives on the line," Rendell said. "Of the battles they face each day, having the means to vote should not be one of them,"

In the past, some military people who are stationed overseas reported problems receiving their ballots in time to return them by the deadline.

This year, counties were required to begin sending out absentee ballots to military and overseas voters in the most remote locations by Aug. 26 and to begin sending the rest by Friday. They have until Nov. 12 -- eight days after the election -- to get their marked ballots to the counties.

Other Pennsylvanians may cast absentee ballots if they sign statements attesting that they will be away from their municipality on Election Day or that they have an illness or disability. Counties must begin distributing those ballots by Oct. 21 and they must be returned to the counties by Oct. 31

In 2004, the early timetable for military and overseas civilians clashed with litigation over the status of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Although Nader's name was ultimately stricken from the ballot, it was listed on some of those early absentee ballots and not on others.

At least 261,946 absentee ballots were cast four years ago -- nearly twice the 144,248 votes by which Democrat John Kerry beat Republican George Bush in Pennsylvania.

Of the total absentee ballots, about 20,000 -- 8 percent -- were cast by military and overseas voters.

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