(Newsroom America) -- The number of requests by military members for absentee ballots is down sharply from 2008 levels, and with the voting deadline fast approaching, that is raising concerns in some political circles.
"In Virginia, for instance, only 5,263 ballots had been requested by military voters as of Sept. 22, compared with 20,738 in 2008, according to state figures compiled by the Military Voter Protection Project," the Washington Times reported Thursday.
That means that "the people who are on the front lines defending freedom are in danger of having their voices silenced," project director Eric Eversole told the paper.
Eversole blamed the Pentagon, saying "it’s down to bureaucratic inertia."
"There’s a lack of any strong structure that encourages service members to vote," he said. "These numbers show that military members throughout the force are still struggling to register and request an absentee ballot."
The Times said Defense Department officials have defended efforts to encourage military members to vote, as well as efforts to help them do so, per federal mandate.
Part of the problem, officials say, is that ballots coming from troops deployed overseas, especially in war zones, often have to be mailed weeks in advance.
And, they say, states have different rules and deadlines when it comes to absentee ballots.
"We have an aggressive, robust outreach effort going on right now to reach service members and educate them about how to exercise their right to vote," Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told the paper. "There are multiple resources available to help them."
"There is still time for military voters to participate in this election,” she continued. “It is critical that [service members] check the registration deadline for their state.”
Eversole discounted that explanation, saying, "The deadlines are quickly approaching, and the numbers are still well, well below where they were in the last cycle. When do they think these requests are going to come in?"
Other Pentagon officials took umbrage at the project's voting numbers, calling them old or outdated.
"The data in that report, we believe, is quite old and doesn’t take into effect recent developments that we’ve undertaken," Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
Eversole said he first compiled his numbers at the end of August and has updated them several times since.
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