800 in Africa,
97,000 in Asia (excluding the Middle East and Central Asia),
155,000 in Iraq
33,000 in Afghanistan
40,258 in South Korea,
40,045 in Japan,
491 at the Diego Garcia Base in the Indian Ocean,
100 in the Philippines,
196 in Singapore,
113 in Thailand,
200 in Australia,
116,000 in Europe,
1,000 in Kyrgyzstan
38 in Georgia
In the Middle East (excluding the Iraq war theater) there are 6,000 US military personnel, 3,432 of whom are in Qatar and 1,496 in Bahrain.
700 in Guantanamo,
413 in Honduras,
147 in Canada,and 16,601 Afloat.
These soldiers, sailors,
Roughly 120 million voters pulled the lever in 2004. In the big picture, with a similar turn-out, that means .5% of the vote would be the military's absentee ballots.
Big deal--that's only going to matter in a tie-breaker, right?
Not so fast, mathmagician.
Precincts report vote tallies throughout the day on election day.
As tallies are reported, when the state reaches the number of registered voters equaling a percentage of the vote (for example: we have 100 registered voters, when we have 50 votes turned in, we're 50% done, and can begin casting electoral votes.)
You see, the way the electoral college works the POTUS and VP are decided by an election of the states, not the public, and the electors votes are based upon the laws of each state's constitution. State A may have all electoral college votes go to the winner of the popular majority, State B may have their votes split according to the ratio of popular votes, State C may have their votes cast based on where the cow flop lands, etc.
Worse still, electors ballots are secret, so if any elector casts a vote NOT in accordance with the state law, it's still counted, and the state may pursue legal action after the election is over, and the damage is done, but the ballots are secret, and although written, may not be used to determine how a delegate voted.
But what happens when of those 100 registered voters, 10 were absentee ballots, and 25 registered voters just didn't vote that day? Only 85 votes are tallied, and so only 85% of the vote determines how the electoral college votes.
Seems fair, everyone who showed up or sent in a ballot had their votes counted, right?
Not so fast. lets look at one state as an example of all 50, since I don't have time to review the absentee laws in every state.
California law provides 28 days after the election for election officials to count ballots and finalize election results.
So, 65 voters come in. 25 stay home. 10 don't get counted for the next 27 days. Of the voters who came in, 30 voted for candidate A, and 35 voted for candidate B. The electors cast their votes with 100% of the polls closed and reporting in, and candidate B wins, and in the news all over the globe, Candidate A concedes, Candidate B claims victory, and there is much rejoicing.
27 days later, the other 10 votes are counted, and candidate A got 9 more, and candidate B got one. The result is now 39-36 in favor of Candidate A. But now, a month after the elections, is anyone going to say--wait, nazzo fast. The president-elect, isn't him, it's him (or her.)
Now, what if that only happened in California? Well, that's 55 electoral votes, 14 more than the second most in NY. Given that that there are 538 electoral votes, and a candidate only needs 270--a majority of ONE vote, even if this scenario happened in Delaware, D.C., Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont or Wyoming (each has only 3 electoral votes) then in any race with a margin of less than 55 electoral votes, this is a very real possibility.
So, now I've proven that it is possible for absentee ballots to change the outcome of elections.
Absentee ballots can't be required to be in before election day, but may be required to be in on election day. Some states start counting them early, but can't report results until election day, others leave them sealed and start counting them on election day, etc.
How many states didn't complete vote counts of polling station votes within 24 hours of election day in the last election? (Ohio.)
Now, lets assume the following: any government bureaucracy will only function at the minimum capability or capacity necessary to maintain or improve their funding levels, or at the very minimum to keep from being fired? If you can wrap your head around that maxim (think about your last trip to the DMV) then it isn't hard to conclude that not all absentee ballots get counted before the last day they can be counted by law.
So, with <500K votes out there and available, and with the military likely representing the largest single demographic of voters (aside from senior citizens who probably think it's a slot machine) why do our candidates not do a lot more with troops than simply use them for photo-ops and backdrops? Because our votes may not be "really" counted. Sure, they'll be read and registered, and counted and tallied and reported, but no one, and I mean no one, is going to go on TV 28 days after being referred to as "Mr. President" and concede the election to the other candidate. Even if all the votes were counted, and the popular vote did, in fact sway a clear majority of electoral votes to the other guy, the electoral votes have already been counted and tallied, and cannot be changed.
My recommendation? Another constitutional change, but a necessary one, since our founding fathers never really intended a standing full-time globally-deployed Military. And the best part, is that it is such a simple idea, too. The military gets its own electoral college votes, based on the number of registered voters there are in the military in proportion to the number of people in the military. The more we participate in the process, the bigger our voice gets. Congress sets the size of the DoD in the budget, but they still have to leave us large enough to defend our country. All military absentee ballots go to the military electors, and they cast their ballots accordingly. A military primary election will determine the distribution of the electoral votes, either as a ratio, all for one, or somewhere in between. All electors from the military are chosen at random, by the military, and their identities are kept confidential.
It's time we had an equal voice in our government. Equal to the folks who liv behind the wall we stand on.
Now, since that isn't ever going to happen, I am going to tell Larry, Moe, and Curly how than can, in a single day, lock up the vote of 90% of the military, and score a huge PR victory at home.
Go be with the troops. Share their stories, their ideas, and their risks.
Time in the chow hall is one thing. Great, you got to meet the chain of command, get a brief, and dine with the top 10 soldiers in the unit.
Want mad respect and props that would spread by word of mouth and blogosphere hotline like ringworm at a wrestling match? Go to Iraq, unannounced. Go to a random COP, or FOB. Suit up, in uniform, no bodyguards. Grab a rifle, helmet, and vest. Go on ONE patrol. Man ONE checkpoint for a few hours. Raid ONE house. Build ONE swingset on a playground. Pass out ONE truckload of school supplies.
Do any of these missions right alongside the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine, without body guards, cameras, pomp or circumstance. Let the troops take your picture to send home. You'll still be on CNN by the end of the day. The difference is that even if you spend the day there and don't see anything but goats, flies, and a naked guy walking his pet chicken (he lives on Blue babe highway just past CP 33 , near FOB Gabe. Trust me.) You will have shouldered the exact same burden you are asking them to share for you, someday. If you get into a firefight, or get hit by an IED, you will be able to beat your chest and brag how you were able to perform under fire, at risk of life and limb, etc. If you get wounded, you can even use that to distance yourself from the others, "I risked life and limb, and luckily, all I lost was limb. What have you risked, douchebag?"
You will show those 0.5% that you don't consider yourself, their wanna-be Commander in Chief as above the risk, above them, or place a higher value on your life than you do on theirs. You may have already served in a war, maybe even distinguished yourself there. But each war is different, sacrifices are different, and during an election you need to work to get my vote, not rest on your laurels and expect my vote. Show your support not with words, but with actions.
Really, it's the least you can do, since two of you don't support the military at all, and one of you is just there for the photo-op. (And you're still an asshat, John McCain.)