Afghanistan Military Ballots Delayed – For Five Weeks!
A box of absentee military ballots mailed from Afghanistan more than a month ago was hung up in the military postal system for up to five weeks. According to reporting by Army Times, the Postal Service’s mailing tracking number places those ballots at a postal facility in New York City. The tracking numbers were updated to reflect an arrival at New York City on Friday.
At least one of those ballots was mailed on September 27th, and placed in a special box with an unknown number of other ballots. The tracking code on at least one of the ballots in that box listed the ballot had not cleared Bahrain until Friday, November 2nd, which means there was a delay of nearly five weeks between the time the ballots were mailed and their arrival at New York City.
This delay is substantially longer than the delays anticipated by the Military Postal Service Agency’s own published plan, which specifies a mailing date of 17 or more days prior to elections from most APO codes in Afghanistan, and 25 days for those deployed aboard ship in the U.S. Pacific or Atlantic fleets.
The Military Postal Service Agency has primary responsibility for all mail issues affecting U.S. servicemembers outside of the U.S. When letters and parcels arrive within the United States, they become the responsibility of the U.S. Postal Service.
The news comes just days after a Russian plane carrying 4,700 pounds of mail crashed and burned at Shindand Air Field in Afghanistan (the aircrew all walked away from the crash.) An unknown number of military ballots may have been on board. Although elections officials are required by federal law to mail absentee ballots to overseas servicemembers at least 45 days prior to the election, many jurisdictions failed to meet that deadline. In some instances, the Department of Justice filed suit against some states, including Vermont and Michigan, to force state and local elections officials to comply, or to extend the deadline to receive absentee ballots.
Several calls to the U.S. Postal Service, the Military Postal Service Agency, and the MPSA’s own Postal Voting Program Manager, Vardar May, were not immediately returned.