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While Election Day passed for those back home Tuesday, many overseas military ballots will continue to arrive at local election offices in the next week, where different laws govern whether an overseas vote can be counted after Nov. 4.

To ensure that such ballots aren’t unfairly disqualified, a nonprofit military voter advocacy group established the Military Ballot Protection Program last week in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. Representatives say it will help cut down on the legal uncertainties surrounding these votes.

Aided pro bono by the law firm Bingham McCutchen, the National Defense Committee launched the program to help election officials better understand absentee ballot regulations as well, committee member Bob Carey said.

While it’s not yet clear how many overseas troops and military family members attempted to vote this year, numbers from previous elections are generally considered incomplete when it comes to overseas ballots.

But according to the best estimates by the national Election Assistance Commission, about 119,000 overseas military voters tried to vote in 2006, but fewer than half the ballots were actually counted. Anything from a wrong address to a missing signature can disqualify a ballot.

Private studies have placed the number of military members attempting to vote in 2006 as high as 660,000.

The main hope is that "precedents are not set" when it comes to disqualifying overseas military ballots, Carey said.

Absentee voting came to the forefront in Fairfax County, Va., last week, when a county official planned to discard 250 emergency federal write-in absentee ballots because they included a witness’ signature but not their address.

National Defense Committee representatives stepped in and asked the Virginia Board of Elections to review what it characterized as a misapplication of state law in Fairfax.

In the end, the state overruled Fairfax County’s interpretation of the law and those emergency ballots will be counted.

This week, Sen. John McCain’s campaign sued the state to allow for a deadline extension for the acceptance of military ballots, which is normally Nov. 4.

McCain’s camp contends that because some Virginia counties mailed absentee ballots out late this year, troops should get an extended deadline of about a week to get them back and counted.

Carey said the committee may take legal action against states with similar issues like Virginia.

Counting down to Jan. 20Nov. 4: Voters choose a group of electors from each state to serve in the Electoral College, which will elect the president and vice president. When Americans vote, they are technically picking representatives pledged to the candidates and aren’t voting directly for the contenders themselves.

Dec. 9: Deadline for states to resolve issues regarding election recounts, controversies or contests.

Dec. 15: Electors meet in their states to pick the president and vice president. They are not required by federal law to follow the will of the popular vote in their state.

Dec. 24: Deadline for designated officials, such as the president of the Senate and others, to have the electoral votes in hand, though states do not face any legal penalty if they don’t comply.

Jan. 6: Congress meets to count the electoral votes. The president and vice president must win a majority of electoral votes, or 270, to be elected. If there is no majority, the House selects the president, and the Senate selects the vice president.

Jan. 20: The president-elect is sworn into office.

— AP

Counting up the numbersDays since Obama announced his candidacy, as of Tuesday, Nov. 4: 633

Days since McCain announced his candidacy: 559

Number of candidates who launched White House bids: 25

Democratic nominating contests won by Obama: 32

Democratic contests won by Hillary Rodham Clinton: 22

Competitive GOP contests won by McCain before clinching the nomination: 24

Competitive GOP contests won by Mitt Romney: 11

Competitive GOP contests won by Mike Huckabee: 8

Competitive GOP contests won by Rudy Giuliani, once the front-runner in national polls: 0

Democratic debates: 21

Republican debates: 15

Debates between Obama and McCain: 3

Total words spoken in the three presidential debates: Roughly 45,000

SPENDING BY OBAMA, AS OF OCT. 15: $564 million

Media:$240 million

Travel:$39.5 million

Salaries & benefits: $46 million

Home Depot: More than $27,000 for office supplies, staging, sound and lighting equipment

Domino’s Pizza: $900

Starbucks: $2,200

Einstein Bros. Bagels: $426

Dunkin’ Donuts: $2,500

SPENDING BY MCCAIN, AS OF OCT. 15: $262 million

Media: $116 million

Travel: $20 million

Salaries and benefits: $20 million

Home Depot: $3,430

Domino’s Pizza: $550

Starbuck’s: $1,810

Einstein Bros. Bagels: $87

Dunkin’ Donuts: $1,010

Sources: Federal Election Commission; Center for Responsive Politics

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