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The 2006 midterm elections are held Tuesday in the U.S. — and some voters living in Europe are exercising their right to vote out of worry that other people in their situation won’t.

About 84,000 ballots were mailed through the military postal system in Europe for the 2004 presidential election, officials say.

Tuesday’s elections don’t involve choosing a president. They do, however, include 33 U.S. Senate races, every member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 gubernatorial contests, hundreds of state- and county-level races and ballot questions.

In Naples, Italy, Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Woolverton said he voted mainly because he figured so many others would not.

“I voted because, well, nobody cares about midterm elections,” said Woolverton, 33, stationed at Naval Support Activity Naples. “Things that might be important and on the ballot don’t get voted on, and just might get floated through.”

But Woolverton admitted he wasn’t familiar with all the candidates on his Florida ballot. Of the three candidates for a judge’s position, for example, he searched for information on the candidates on the Internet. “Of the three running, only one had a Web site, so that’s the one I voted for,” said Woolverton, who mailed in his ballot on Oct. 18.

Woolverton’s “others won’t vote” sentiment was echoed by Pvt. Michael Kain of 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment. The 21-year-old Bamberg-based soldier said he hasn’t sent his ballot to Washington state yet, but he will.

“It’s very important to vote because everyone thinks that the next guy’s going to vote, and if you don’t, the next guy might not either.”

Spc. Joseph Peters, 22, from Reedsville, Wis., took advantage of his state’s in-person absentee voting to cast his ballot while home on leave. “Otherwise I would have had to do an absentee ballot like when I was at basic,” he said.

Peters, a member of the 32nd Signal Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany, has been an active voter since he turned 18 and believes that voting gives him a right that non-voters don’t have.

“It’s like the old saying, ‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.’ I do vote, so I can complain,” Peters said.

One first-time voter hasn’t voted yet, but not through lack of effort.

Tech Sgt. Phillip Starke said he had already sent away his absentee ballot back to his home state of Arizona. “You can’t give those Democrats control,” he said, laughing after working out Wednesday at Aviano Air Base in Italy. “Are you crazy?”

Starke registered to vote several years ago and didn’t have to do it this year. The ballot just showed up and he filled it out and sent it in, he said.

With Starke was Staff Sgt. Ken Falker, who hadn’t voted yet and said he probably wouldn’t. He wasn’t the only one.

“I didn’t do it. I wanted to, but I got busy and probably a little lazy. I saw the (registration) booth they had to sign up for it (in the mall). And I thought about talking to them, but …. I did vote last year,” Falker said.

Dianne Hodges, 48, a teacher in Bamberg, Germany, has voted every year since 1976, when she turned 18. Her ballot is on its way to Oregon.

She is educating her fourth-graders on the importance of making their voices heard. “I’m trying to enforce to my kids that voting is a right,” she said.

“Why do you think these guys are fighting in Iraq? To provide (Iraqis) the rights and privileges that we take for granted,” Hodges said.

Pfc. David Johnson has never registered to vote. He says he might register in the future, but has never given it much thought.

“At the time I was living with rich parents, and I didn’t have to worry about anything. I’m on my own now, so I’ve got to worry about things,” said Johnson, 21, who is based in Bamberg.

Reporters Matt Millham in Griesheim, Germany; Sandra Jontz in Naples, Italy; and Kent Harris in Vicenza, Italy, contributed to this report.


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