It would be a fine thing if every person of voting age in the United States could vote this year at his home polling place.
It would be a fine thing if everybody could vote both in the primaries, which are straggled out from April to September, according to varying state laws, and in the November general election.
But the country is at war, and this isn’t possible.
It isn’t possible because millions of voters are fighting that war. Some of them are still in the United States, either in training or providing behind-the-gun service but they are scattered through hundreds of camps, depots, bases, stations and headquarters.
Millions of them are overseas, not only in Italy, England and New Britain, where the main fighting is going on, but at Pearl Harbor, in New Guinea, Algeria, Cairo, Iran, China, Burma, Australia, Bermuda, Panama, Brazil, Liberia, Tarawa, Alaska, Guadalcanal and hundreds of other places.
These men and women are not assigned their foreign stations, or their domestic bases, by geographical origin.
Members of the Armed Forces from Pittsburgh, as from every city, hamlet and township in the country, are distributed all over the world.
There are 48 states and 48 sets of election laws, widely different. To make it possible for each member of the Armed Forces to vote in strict compliance with the laws of his own state it would be necessary for the Army and Navy to suspend many other pressing war matters and detour an inconceivable amount of personnel and equipment to the job of distributing and collecting ballots from the thousand and one spots where American voters are stationed around the world.
Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Knox have said this is not possible. They have said the only way the Army and Navy can handle this problem is by making use of a “simple, uniform” ballot.
Some Congressmen and Senators dispute this. They say the whole matter can easily be handled by the Army and Navy despite the different systems, or by routine mail without any special help from the Army and Navy.
They could be right. But Mr. Knox and Mr. Stimson are in a better position to know. They have at their fingertips authoritative information from competent Army and Navy officers, at home and afield. They are familiar with the overall picture. And they have demonstrated a sincere interest in this problem.
How can we do else than accept their advice?
We have a letter from a Wilkinsburg naval officer, now overseas, who attempted to vote in the 1943 local election. Here is what he said:
My ballot for Nov. 2 election arrived Jan. 2. I didn’t even bother to fill it out. Personally, I’m quite disgusted. It was mailed Oct. 18. Whether it was the Navy’s fault or the fault of the Board of Education, I don’t know. But I do know that if ballots are held up for the presidential election, there’s going to be an awful howl raised by the men overseas. I wish something could be done about it.
Something can be done about it. Congress can do something about it. And Congress had better do it soon.