US Election 2020

US Election 2020: when will military ballots be counted in Georgia?

As Joe Biden inches closer to possible victory in the presidential election, Trump continues his efforts to cast doubt over absentee vote counting.

US Election 2020: when will military ballots be counted in Georgia?
Jessica McGowan AFP

What has Trump said about military absentee ballots?

When Donald Trump, on election night Tuesday 3 November demanded that vote counting stopped when polls closed, he inadvertently dismissed the absentee ballots of military personnel as well as their spouses, which must, by law, be counted.

And then, in a by-now-completely-predictable move, the president did a U-turn just when it suited him.

 

As vote counting in Georgia neared crunch time on Friday afternoon, the President suggested something untoward was happening in the state, where at the time of writing Biden is ahead by 7,248 votes.

 

The implication of the post is that "missing" military ballots might have been a contributing factor to Biden's lead in the state.

Are Georgia’s military ballots missing?

Yesterday, Friday 7 November, three days after polls closed, was the deadline for military ballots in Georgia to be received. This is completely normal, there is nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary about it.

Trump, in his tweet from Friday appeared to be referring to the 8,410 absentee ballots in Georgia that were requested by and sent to military personnel and their families and other overseas voters but had not yet been received back by the state.

There is no evidence to suggest that these votes are missing. The state of Georgia will count these ballots, as long as they had arrived by the end of the day on Friday, as they have with the 18,008 military and overseas votes already received and counted in the state.

"It's going to be more than 0 and less than 8,410," said Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for Georgia's Secretary of State, on Friday afternoon. Voting of these ballots continues in Georgia throughout the weekend.

How do military ballot deadlines differ from normal counting?

CNN clarifies that some states enforce deadlines for receiving the ballots but don't require a postmark, due to the differences in how mail is processed domestically and overseas, especially on military installations or in combat zones.

It’s simply much more difficult to vote from overseas than at home. It should go without saying that this fact does not equal fraud, but here we are nonetheless.

Take Pennsylvania and North Carolina; in Pennsylvania, absentee ballots must be signed by the night before the election and received by 10 November, a full seven days after the election. A postmark is not required. In North Carolina, home to some of the most frequently deployed Army forces in the nation, that deadline is even later: ballots can be legally accepted until 12 November with no postmark required.

The secretary of state said on Friday that because the margin between the presidential candidates was so small, there will be a recount.

 

Why does Trump want military ballots to be counted?

It may be reasonably assumed that Military personnel and their families would more often vote Republican than Democrat – Trump certainly appears to think so. Traditionally this has been the case, that military votes have a tendency to support conservative candidates.

However, a Military Times poll completed in August, which took the temperature of the political views of active duty service members, found support for Trump had fallen significantly, from 46% in 2016 to just under 38%. In fact, more service members said they would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden than Trump.

Looking to future elections, advocates are concerned about the possible long term effect of Trump's “mail ballot fraud” narrative on the trust that the military electorate hold in the absentee voting process many of them use.

For all the latest election results and updates as they happen, follow our dedicated rolling feed.