Robert Novak

Congressional attention to the problem has been scattered and limited mostly to Republicans such as Sen. John Cornyn, who earlier this year decried "a lack of will" at the Pentagon to solve the voting problem. Democratic interest about tackling the problem might be tempered by apprehension that soldiers will cast too many Republican votes.

Nevertheless, at least one prominent Democrat -- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer -- described himself to me as eager to deal with this problem. (Hoyer's home state of Maryland is one of the worst offenders, with ballots of only 4.1 percent of overseas voters counted in 2006.) Hoyer and Blunt, who have become friendly adversaries in a bitterly partisan Congress, conferred several weeks ago and agreed in principle on co-sponsoring a resolution aimed at getting the Defense Department moving.

Hoyer wanted the resolution to cover expatriate Americans as well as the military, and Blunt did not object. They turned the issue over to their staffers and went about the business of major legislation. Blunt had instructed his staff to seek agreement with Democrats but, if not, to introduce a resolution applying only to the military, which was the outcome.

One presidential staffer who is familiar with the situation privately dismisses the Pentagon bureaucrats as "hopeless." In a lame-duck administration counting the days before a troubled eight years finally end, American fighting men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan deprived of their right to vote constitute the least of White House worries.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

©Creators Syndicate