In the last several days there have been several efforts to improve the voting opportunities for military voters. First, the Overseas Vote Foundation issued a press release noting that they have created an online system for voters to find their local election official. This is critical because contacting these people is the first step to applying for and getting an absentee ballot. As they note:
Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) today announced a new online voter service, the OVF Election Official Directory: http://www.ovf-eod.org. The Election Official Directory is a complete, online database of the 7,838 US Local Election Officials (LEOs) which is also offered as a licensed service to other organizations. It joins RAVAsm in the OVF suite of secure, online voter services available at http://www.overseasvotefoundation.org.
“With the Election Official Directory, OVF goes further than any other service to make all the contact information overseas and military voters need accessible – and in greater detail,” said Janet Day-Strehlow, OVF’s Election Official Directory Program Manager.
Overseas and military voters’ questions commonly concern three main areas: 1) if a particular voting residence address will be accepted; 2) whether voter registration forms have been received; 3) and lastly concerning ballots, whether they were sent out, received and counted. “Questions such as these can typically only be answered by a local election official and the Election Official Directory facilitates that direct voter contact to those who usually can best provide the answers,” stated Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, Executive Director, OVF.
The Election Official Directory will save voters and voting officials time and trouble in finding out who to contact with voting questions while giving them options to decide how best to make contact. OVF maintains the data and communicates regularly with local and state election officials to ensure that the Election Official Directory is up-to-date. “LEOs do not always have email, but we hope this service encourages more of them to take up the option. Email is best for communications with overseas and military voters as it avoids cost and time zone issues,” added Ms. Day-Strehlow.
On a related point, the Washington Post reported that:
Twelve senators are asking Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to make it easier for troops abroad to vote, saying the current system is outdated. Seven Republicans and five Democrats wrote to Rumsfeld this month, asking the department to create a new voting system that would allow members of the military to easily “request, receive, download and print” absentee ballots regardless of their location.
“Military absentee voting is still conducted in the same way it was conducted during World War II and the Korean War,” the senators wrote. Samuel Wright of the National Defense Committee, a group that advocates for electing more veterans to Congress, said he has counted 7,838 different state and local election offices that administer federal elections and communicate with troops overseas. Wright said it would be ideal if military abroad could receive ballots by e-mail, fill them out and send them to their local election offices by regular mail.
Mike and I wrote about the problems associated with military voting in our book Point, Click, and Vote: The Future of Internet Voting. We have also examined the issues associated with non-internet, electronic voting platforms, such as emails, the web, and fax. The problem remains, as it has for 80 years, the difficulty of transporting ballots into and out of faraway countries. Wihtout some electronic transport, it is difficult to get ballots to voters and back from them in the short window that typically exists for voting. This is clearly an issue that the federal government needs to address, especially since it looks as though a very large contingent of forces will still be in Iraq in 2008.