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March 25: Voice of The (Anchorage) Times on polling places on military installations:

Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Sen. Ted Stevens had to go to the new secretary of Defense to get a special exemption to permit the city to put two polling places on Anchorage's military bases for the April 3 municipal election.

The need to go to the Pentagon to clear the way for voting in a local election is, alas, another of Bill Clinton's legacies.

The Clinton administration, knowing full well that a preponderance of ballots cast by military families in last year's presidential election would be Republican, saw to it that the Defense Department issued a directive prohibiting polling places on Army, Navy and Marine installations.

Congress thought otherwise and included a provision in the 2001 Military Construction Appropriations Act that suspended enforcement of the Defense Department directive.

However, the provision was effective only through last Dec. 31.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Stevens asked for a temporary suspension of the directive to allow the use of military bases for the April election, pending completion of a more formal review that is now under way.

''This will ensure that voters in Alaska and other localities are not affected in upcoming elections,'' Stevens said to Rumsfeld. ''In the long term, I hope your review will lead to a complete change in the DoD policy.''

Surely that will be the eventual outcome of this matter, throwing in the trash bin the Clinton effort to impede voting by members of the military and their dependents living on base.

Meanwhile, however, the city is proceeding with its election plan on the assumption that the temporary waiver requested by Stevens will be granted before election day here.

As in past elections for many years gone by, polling places are scheduled to be in place at Mt. Spur Elementary School on Elmendorf Air Force Base and at Ursa Major Elementary School on Fort Richardson.

Among items on the ballot is a School Board proposal to provide funds for renovation of Ursa Major. How ironic it would be if parents with children in that school had to go off-base to cast their ballots.

Stevens' request to Rumsfeld was designed to avoid that prospect.

Time is running short. But the expectation is that the city will have the green light to proceed as planned before election day rolls around.



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