Election 1944: Soldier votes may decide presidential election (10-21-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 22, 1944)


Soldier votes may decide presidential election

If civilian balloting is close, results may not be known for sometime after Nov. 7
By Lyle C. Wilson, United Press staff writer

New York – (Oct. 21)
Ballots from the armed services counted on or after Election Day in pivotal states could be the determining factor in this year’s presidential contest between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas E. Dewey.

If President Roosevelt and Governor Dewey come to the stretch in a photo-finish the result might be in doubt for days or weeks after Nov. 7.

An unofficial United Press compilation shows that upward of four million ballots have been sent to servicemen and women – a figure not far under the popular vote margin by which Mr. Roosevelt led Wendell L. Willkie, the Republican candidate, in 1940.

Exact figures lacking

The figure is not complete and in many instances is based on estimates, state officials more often than not being unable to give precise figures.

But the potential service vote is large enough to determine the outcome in a close contest which many persons are convinced next month’s election will be.

The 1916 election between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes was determined with final returns from the town of Eureka, California. If California again should be the determining state, the outcome might not be known until Dec. 16 when armed service votes are counted there. It is estimated that 175,000 California servicemen and women have received absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania watched

If Pennsylvania is the key state in this election – and many persons expect it to be – final returns from that state will not be available until sometime after Nov. 22 because counting of the servicemen’s ballots will not be started until then. And there are 620,000 armed-service ballots out from that state. A dozen or more states may count service ballots after Election Day.

None knows, of course, what percentage of service men and women will vote. But if their participation is large, percentagewise, they will control the result in many a close state.

This election campaign is primarily a contest for 11 big states where the vote in 1940 was close. Of those 21, Mr. Roosevelt won nine and Mr. Willkie two. Mr. Dewey probably must hold those two and reverse the trend in the others to win. At the least he must reverse the trend in most of them.

There is a persistent and quite persuasive Democratic argument that Mr. Roosevelt will have a majority of the armed service vote. The argument becomes considerably sharper on the question of how great a majority.

But it is pointed out that fighting men and service women are from the younger brackets of the electorate where the administration counts itself strongest.

On the other hand, it is argued that these young people are likely to be strongly influenced by what their own families intend to do on Election Day.

But, however the armed service vote may divide, its potential impact on the outcome is indicated by some pertinent figures relating to the 11 close states where Mr. Dewey must cut deeply into Democratic positions to win as well as hold the two states which went Republican in 1940.

Figures which follow show the margin by which these states were won in 1940. The first two, Indiana and Michigan, went Republican. The rest cast their electoral votes for Mr. Roosevelt.

For comparison with the 1940 margin, the unofficial estimates of outstanding armed service ballots which may be cast this year are given:

1940 margin Estimated 1944 service ballots
Indiana 25,000 150,000
Michigan 7,000 200,000
Illinois 102,000 250,000
Massachusetts 137,000 450,000
Minnesota 48,000 124,000
Missouri 87,000 80,000
New Jersey 71,000 331,118
New York 224,000 523,816
Ohio 147,000 241,273
Pennsylvania 282,000 620,000
Wisconsin 25,000 No estimate

Outstanding Wisconsin ballots may be assumed to be in excess of the 1940 margin by which Mr. Roosevelt won the state.

Big votes cast

Although the Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania margins were large in themselves, it must be remembered that those states cast an enormous vote.

Ohio cast well over three million votes last time, Illinois 4,200,000, Massachusetts two million, New York 6,270,000 and Pennsylvania more than four million. Those contests were close.

The aggregate electoral vote of those 11 states is 237, only 29 short of the bare Electoral College majority necessary to elect. In 1920, those states cast an aggregate of 15,613,807 votes for Mr. Roosevelt and 13,522,386 for Mr. Willkie.

Mr. Roosevelt’s 11-state popular vote margin was 2,091,521 votes. Those states have outstanding 2,823,207 ballots sent to the armed services.