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Like in 2000, counting overseas military ballots could become issue again in Florida

steve abbot.jpg
ADM Steve Abbot, Deputy Commander Chief, European Command, visits the U.S Navy EA-6B "Prowlers" squadron April 21, 1999 (Steve Abbot).{ }

When the results were in the air and a recount was underway in Florida in the year 2000, the issue of counting late-arriving overseas military ballots became a political flashpoint.

And now, heading into another hotly contested presidential race, expected to be a nail-biter in battleground Florida -- counting those military ballots could become an issue again.

"They indeed can make a difference," said Admiral Steve Abbot, a veteran from Pensacola, who cast an absentee ballot in the 2000 election.

He now works as the co-chair of Count Every Hero, a nonpartisan group that works to ensure overseas military members have access to ballots and get their votes counted.

"Count Every Hero believes election outcomes shouldn't be declared until all of those votes are counted," said Abbot. "Every citizen deserves to have their vote counted, and for those who are standing the watch for us -- we really owe it to them to make sure their votes are counted."

See also: More than half of voters cast ballots in Florida

In Florida, military ballots can arrive up to 10 days after the election and still be counted.

That policy varies by state-to-state, with some requiring military ballots be received by Election Day -- and others letting them come in as late as 20 days after.

Count Every Hero is concerned that mail service is slower due to the pandemic -- resulting in delays that could cause some votes to be thrown out, due to no fault of the service member.

"Some of the air transportation has been slower than normal, so that's a concern," said Abbot.

According to the US Election Assistance Commission, about 250,000 service members voted by absentee ballot in 2016. Of those, over 50,000 were sent to Florida -- accounting for one out of every five of these votes.

In 2000, the election came down to just a few hundred votes.


That's why Abbot, and other voting rights advocates, know it's important to make sure every vote counts.