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New Study Finds 2020 Election Could Hinge on Military Vote

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Created: 19 October, 2020
Updated: 14 August, 2022
3 min read

Headlines publish every day about record turnout and absentee ballot requests across the country. Already, turnout in the 2020 election is expected to far surpass 2016's turnout even as the nation continues to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

What this means for the election two weeks out is difficult to say. National polls suggest a huge lead for Biden, but if 2016 taught the country anything, it is that the polls can miss key blocs of voters that can change election dynamics.

With that in mind, the nonpartisan anti-corruption group RepresentUs reported on a new study from Count Every Hero that shows how overseas military voters could make the difference this election. Retired Navy Admiral Jon Greenert says this makes it even more crucial that we “count the votes from our service members and resist any calls to stop the count or declare a winner before these legal ballots have a chance to arrive.” 

There have been some who have suggested that it is important to know the winner of the presidential election the night of November 3. Yet, many overseas ballots from service members are not counted until days after the election. Count Every Hero’s study highlights important insights into how service members vote and what this could mean for the 2020 election cycle.

The group's research, for instance, found that most active military voters cast their ballot by mail. In fact, 79% of ballots cast by uniformed service members voting away from home in the 2018 midterms submitted their ballots by mail. And, just like the rest of the population, turnout is expected to be higher among service members serving abroad than in 2016.

“Members of the military have been voting by mail in large numbers since the Civil War. We must honor their service — and their votes,” said Charlynda Scales, United States Air Force and Air Force Reserves Veteran. 

“As a fourth-generation service member, it’s so important to me that service members participate in this election. In a year when more people than ever will be voting by mail and it will take longer to get results, we must make sure every vote gets counted.”

It is also important to note that many overseas military ballots aren’t counted until days after the election. The majority of states (29 plus DC) accept and count ballots received after Election Day as long as their postage is marked before polls close. The window varies by state, from 2 days in South Carolina to 20 days in Washington state.

"We must give our men and women in uniform a real chance to receive their ballot, to return it, and to have that ballot counted, like all the other Americans they pledged to support and defend,” said Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., Admiral, US Navy (retired). “They deserve nothing less." 

Count Every Hero is committed to two principles: (1) We must protect every service member’s right to vote and count their vote; and (2) every service member must be allowed to request, receive, and cast an absentee ballot regardless of where they are in the world. The cross-partisan campaign is part of the Military Vote Coalition, which exists to increase voter participation.

The campaign also recently launched its first campaign video ahead of the November election.

“Nearly 1 million members of our armed services are eligible to vote this election, and it’s on us to make sure that not a single one of them is left behind,” said Herb Thompson, United States Army, Special Forces Veteran, Retired. 

“With only 20 days left before the election, it’s time to put principle and country over party. We need every American to join in and play their role as members of this democratic republic to ensure that our voices are heard. We don’t leave our brothers and sisters in uniform behind on the battlefield. We won’t do it at the ballot box.”

Check out the full report from Count Every Hero, titled “Military Voting in All 50 States” here.