Iowa's overseas military to use email for ballot delivery and return

This past week, Iowa joined a handful of U.S. states that allow overseas voters to receive and return their ballots electronically. Iowa currently has an estimated 1400 citizens overseas in the military, and they will be able to receive and send their ballot using email in this fall’s elections. There are now 10 states that allow overseas voters to receive ballots electronically, and 7 that allow them to return their ballots electronically.

I’ve not been able to find much detail about how the email ballot transmission and return will work, only some brief reports in the media. For example, here is one explanation:

Brunelli says they have a webguard feature for safety and security with the e-mail and she says they also get the original voted ballot sent in as a check on the process. Brunelli says they’ll use a common program to ensure the ballots are safe. She says the ballots that are sent back by e-mail will be scanned and sent back in the P-D-F format so they cannot be altered.

(Brunelli is the director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program). Once I find additional details, I’ll pass them along.

At this point, there has been little research on overseas voting, and no studies that have focused on efforts like these to use new technologies to facilitate the participation of overseas citizens. Such studies need to be conducted, to determine the basic effectiveness of these efforts, along a number of important dimensions, like reliability, accuracy, privacy, security, and usability, just to name a few.