On the eve of his 11-day Far East trip, which will include Thanksgiving supper with U.S. troops in the Korean demilitarized zone, American Legion National Commander Ray G. Smith issued the following statement in regard to the discounting of more than 1,400 absentee ballots from U.S. military personnel assigned overseas.
ORLANDO (CNSNews.com) - "It is un-American to deny the protectors of democracy their constitutional right to participate in the electoral process. I therefore urge Florida election officials to reverse the wholesale invalidation of more than 1,400 absentee ballots submitted by U.S. military personnel stationed abroad. Further, I urge members of Congress to look into this shameful situation.
"The men and women whose votes have been disqualified are part of the tradition of the American citizen-soldier whose sacrifices preserve the right to vote for all of us. There is nothing partisan about counting the votes of these citizens who took an oath 'to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies...'
"Unless an absentee ballot is so mutilated that the choices cannot be determined, the ballot should count. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsman must not be penalized because the system that delivered those ballots was protracted. American troops are deployed to more than 1 30 different countries and on ships on the high seas around the world.
"I am especially sensitive to the patriotism of the troops serving abroad as I plan to spend Thanksgiving thanking our troops between the two Koreas for their service. I cannot look those troops in their eyes and turn my back on the invalidation of their votes."
(Smith, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Korean War, was in Florida for a weekend gathering of The American Legion Department of Florida. The 2.8-million member American Legion is the nation's largest veterans organization.)