ARLINGTON, Va. — It is unfathomable to Kevin Kennedy, executive director for Wisconsin’s State Board of Elections, that there are voters who think their absentee ballots aren’t counted.

“The idea boggles my mind. … It’s one of those election myths out there,” he said.

Joe Kanefield, state election director for Arizona, shared his disbelief.

“I don’t know where people get that. I’m not sure where that started.”

All votes are counted, whether cast at the polls or in absentia, said election officials from a dozen states interviewed since Tuesday’s election. That is, of course, if the ballots arrived on time and met all legal requirements.

Yet rumors persist that absentee ballots are counted only in hotly contested races, when results are close or in the event of a recount.

Not true, said Judy Wagnon, a staff member in the office of Secretary of State in Alabama. There, for example, absentee ballot tallies are listed as separate precincts.

And they’re counted, even if one candidate has conceded, all officials said.

“The law says they must be counted, no matter what. Every vote counts,” Wagnon said. “The statistics are important and it matters to everyone. It matters to the winner and it matters to the loser.”

And they matter for all of the political races.

In 2000, absentee ballots reversed the outcome of a local Connecticut election.

Democratic challenger Jonathan Harris was thought to have beaten the incumbent, Republican Bob Farr, by 23 votes for the West Hartford seat in that state’s House of Representatives, acccording to Larry Perosino, spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of State.

Then, someone noticed a stack of absentee ballots inadvertently was not counted.

The inclusion put the Republican incumbent ahead in the final tally by 30 votes, Perosino said.

He doesn’t know why the ballots weren’t counted the first go-around. “Someone just missed them,” he said.

And yet, possibly thousands of ballots from military and civilian voters mailed Election Day won’t end up in the counted statistical columns because they will fail to meet deadline requirements.

Those deadlines vary by state. Some require ballots be in precinct offices and polling stations by Election Day, others only that they be postmarked by Election Day.

The Defense Department should now focus on improving future methods to avoid what appears to be a logistical mailing snag that delayed getting ballots out, said Peter Feaver, professor of political science at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

“And I’m not sure DOD can do anything unless they allow electronic voting, and there, too, they are going to have challenges,” he said.

In February, the Pentagon scrapped a pilot program that would have facilitated Internet voting for up to 100,000 overseas U.S. citizens amid criticism that programs could not guarantee a secure and tamper-proof system.

However, Congress tasked the Pentagon through the 2005 Defense Authorization Act to continue studying the issue via a program called Remote Internet Voting System Standards, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a department spokeswoman. No time line is given.

Although final numbers won’t be available for about three months, voter turnout in Europe and the Middle East appears lower than in the past. As of Election Day, 88,788 ballots were mailed from APO and FPO address in Europe, and 48,935 ballots were mailed from Central Command’s theater of operations by Oct. 26. Pacific Command was not able to supply any numbers.

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