The Pittsburgh Press (September 24, 1944)
By Robert Taylor, Press Washington correspondent
Washington – (Sept. 23)
Wrong or obsolete address, given for soldier voters, are cutting into the potential vote of the more than 550,000 men of the Armed Forces on the soldier-vote lists of Pennsylvania.
Army officials said they could furnish no figures on the number of state ballots sent out, or the number returned for lack of proper addresses, but they conceded that many ballot envelopes had been returned because of wrong or old addresses.
It was pointed out that the Army averages some 70,000 transfers daily and the Navy 30,000 and that addresses furnished by friends or relatives may be so obsolete as to be valueless.
Most states furnishing absentee ballots to service men have followed the suggested procedure of waiting until the military voter sends in his application card, containing an up-to-date address, but under Pennsylvania’s law ballots were mailed out on the basis of a local canvass.
Despite the state canvass, 193,680 service men have sent applications for ballots to the State Elections Bureau, which were referred to County Elections Boards. Most of them are believed to be duplications of names listed in the state canvass, which totaled 554,332 two months ago.
Service men may apply for federal ballots if the state ballots for which they made application fail to reach them by Oct. 1 and War Department officials have distributed 3,800,000 federal ballots to the Army, 3.400,000 to the Navy and 400,000 to the War Shipping Administration.
Unofficial estimates here are that Pennsylvania ballots returned because of wrong addresses have totaled as much as 15 percent of those sent out from individual counties.
At the start of the soldier voting program, it was recognized that there would be difficulty in getting mail to men in combat theaters, whose addresses are subject to frequent change. In many cases, soldiers have reported that mail failed to catch up with them for months.
It was also recognized that men in actual combat, including whole divisions and units, may not get the chance to vote in time to count in the election, despite elaborate plans to make it possible, including training of special officers to handle voting details.
There are no official estimates of what percentage of the eligible military voters may cast ballots, in event they are made available on schedule, and the possibility of wrong addresses and uncertainty of delivery will complicate further political forecasting.