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Military personnel bused to voting booths
Military personnel bused to voting booths

Trainees leave a troop transport bus on Saturday, Nov. 1, to vote at the Pulaski County Courthouse
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Nov. 8, 2008) — While hundreds of military personnel voted Tuesday at the St. Robert precinct and contributed to last-minute delays, they weren’t the only military voters to be bused to the polls by Fort Leonard Wood vehicles. On Saturday, 606 basic trainees came along with their drill sergeants to vote at the courthouse via special procedures that allowed them to cast only a federal ballot but not a state or local ballot.

Military personnel, like anyone else living in Pulaski County for an extended period, are entitled to register to vote locally and get a full ballot if they do register at least 30 days before the election. However, military personnel have the special privilege of casting a federal ballot even in states like Missouri that don’t allow same-day registration at the polling place. The local, state and county races aren’t included on that federal ballot.

County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer said state law requires her to keep the courthouse open on Saturday morning for people who want to vote in person on the weekend before the election but can’t make it to the polling place on election day. That includes trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, who can’t be allowed off the installation until they finish training without special permission and in most cases don’t have cars available anyway to drive to an off-post polling place.

About 135 civilian voters also cast their ballots on Saturday, Linnenbringer said.

Linnenbringer said she received three different calls from Fort Leonard Wood military personnel in the week prior to the election and was happy to help the trainees vote.

“I encourage everyone to vote and allowing them to come and exercise their right to vote is very important because, whether military or civilian, we want and encourage everyone to vote,” Linnenbringer said. “The girls in the office handled it and did an excellent job. And a lot of the sergeants helped the trainees already get their paperwork completed before they came up to vote.”

The sight of hundreds of uniformed trainees being marched off buses and troop transport vehicles into the county courthouse did raise questions, and Linnenbringer said she did receive calls.

“I had a high-level officer report that he received calls from Pulaski County requesting to know what was going on, and I answered the questions,” Linnenbringer said.

Regular office personnel helped the trainees and civilians vote on Saturday morning, Linnenbringer said, and special volunteers from both parties were called in that afternoon to sort the ballots.

“I had six volunteers, three Republicans and three Democrats, who helped me sort the ballots,” Linnenbringer said.

Only one of the hundreds of trainees was eligible to cast a ballot that affected local races; all the rest were given a special federal ballot that included only the presidential race and the U.S. Congress race.

“We did have one Pulaski County resident; he told me he was a registered voter, and I’m assuming he got a full ballot,” Linnenbringer said.

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