Troops and their families who have already cast an absentee ballot for former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential primaries in Colorado or Maine may be wondering: What happens to their vote if the Republican frontrunner is removed from the ballot in those states?

In essence, those votes wouldn’t be counted, state officials tell Military Times.

Officials in both states are seeking to disqualify Trump as a presidential candidate for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, which they argue violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The provision bars anyone who has “engaged in insurrection” from holding office. Other states are considering following their lead as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 8 heard oral arguments in a challenge to the Colorado Supreme Court’s earlier decision to boot the former president from the state’s ballot.

If the justices uphold Colorado’s ruling, it would effectively nullify any votes for Trump cast on an absentee ballot ahead of the presidential primaries slated for March 5 in both Colorado and Maine, where the Democratic secretary of state has also sought to remove Trump from the primary ballot, state officials said. A decision to throw out Colorado’s ruling would allow Trump’s name to move forward on ballots as initially planned.

A ruling in favor of Colorado would spur ripple effects across the military communities in Colorado and Maine. Here’s why.

Military members and their spouses are in a class of voters with special protections under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. If someone in that group legitimately requests an absentee ballot more than 45 days ahead of a federal election, including primaries, election officials must send the ballot to them by the 45-day deadline.

Those covered by the law include troops, their spouses and other American citizens living outside the U.S. In the case of military members and their spouses, it applies to anyone who is away from their legal voting district, whether they are stationed in a different part of the state, across the country or overseas.

Maine and Colorado began sending absentee ballots weeks ago to their military and overseas voters (known as UOCAVA voters) who had already requested them, and are still responding to new requests, state officials told Military Times.

More than 42,000 of those voters were registered to cast ballots in Colorado in 2020, about 15,000 of whom belonged to the military community, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. About 6,500 more of those voters were registered in Maine, including nearly 1,400 in the military community.

Here’s what happens to any votes cast for Trump in those absentee ballots if he is disqualified.

Colorado

If the Supreme Court rules before the March 5 presidential primary that Trump can be disqualified, “votes cast for the former president would not be counted,” said Kailee Stiles, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State.

In Colorado, you can register to vote in the primary by March 5, and there’s no deadline for ballot requests. Voted ballots can be returned by mail, email, online or fax, and will be counted if they are received by March 13 — the eighth day after the election.

Maine

Maine’s secretary of state is also waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Colorado case, and will follow whatever that ruling directs states to do, said Emily Cook, a spokeswoman for the Maine secretary of state. “Should any candidate withdraw or be disqualified, now that ballots have been issued … votes for that candidate would be treated as blanks, pursuant to Maine election law,” Cook said. If that happens, the department will notify municipal clerks of how to proceed. A notice of the change would accompany absentee ballots that are sent out, and would be posted at voting locations and on the Secretary of State’s website, she said.

Mainers can still register to vote and request an absentee ballot by 12 p.m. on March 4. Residents can take both actions by downloading the Federal Post Card Application (also known as the FPCA) at www.fvap.gov, and mailing, emailing or faxing it to their local election jurisdiction. A voted ballot can be returned by mail, email or fax, and must be received by local election officials by 8 p.m. March 5.

Help is available

There’s still time to register to vote, request a ballot and send the voted ballot in both states’ primaries, as well as most other states, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Prospective voters can find information on registering to vote in their local area through the voting assistance program’s website, and can sign up to vote in November’s general election even if they don’t participate in a primary.

Federal Voting Assistance Program officials advise military and overseas voters to submit the Federal Post Card Application to their election office every year. Check with the fvap.gov site for specific state deadlines, help in finding a local election office, assistance with filling out the Federal Post Card Application and other questions.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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