(Dis)Counting Overseas Votes

Pentagon blocks overseas access to official registration site

| September 30, 2004

Overseas ballots received an unusual amount of attention in the 2000 presidential elections. When the vote counting in Florida got tough, it was those pesky expatriates who helped tip the scales in favor of George W. Bush. So with the promise of a close race in 2004 and Florida's bad taste still in our mouths, it's surprising that the Pentagon would hamhandedly block six and a half million overseas Americans from accessing the primary portal for foreign voter registration. Or maybe it isn't.

While the military has traditionally voted Republican, civilians abroad lean in the direction of the Democratic party by a significant margin. They also outnumber military voters twelve to one, and the most decisive step an interested party could take to sway the 2004 election in favor of Bush would be to disenfranchise these voters. By blocking access to Internet service providers in over 25 countries, the Pentagon seemed to be that interested party. It cited threats by unspecified 'hackers' as the reason for blocking such major European Internet providers as British Telecom and France's Wanadoo, but its dramatic acquiescence to such vague threats puzzled security experts, who saw the move as a clumsy maneuver that threw the baby out with the bathwater. 'There is no way in hell that this is not a deliberate partisan attempt to systematically disenfranchise a large Democratic voting block,' said an unnamed Defense Department voting official.

Needless to say, Democrats cried foul after learning about this 'inadvertent' disenfranchisement, and with the public eye suddenly resting on their bumbling attempt at 'security,' the Pentagon withdrew the blockade. One of the blocked providers, however, claims to have been blacklisted for as long as eighteen months, and thwarted visitors to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website filed complaints as early as February. Clearly, significant media attention was the only catalyst for the Pentagon to correct their outrageous mistake. Thankfully, the problem was corrected before the deadline for overseas registration has passed, but such a shameless assault on the Democratic process is worryingly reminiscent of the 2000 elections, in which countless black Floridians also had their democratic rights threatened by a technicality.
-- Brendan Themes

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