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New online tool to aid with overseas voting is launched

WASHINGTON — An online tool was launched this week that proponents say will make it easier for overseas Americans to vote if they have requested but not received their absentee ballot.

The Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonprofit voter advocacy group, on Monday unveiled the online tool that will help absentee voters complete the emergency federal write-in absentee ballot, or FWAB, more easily and with fewer errors.

Users who log on to www.overseasvotefoundation.org can click on the FWAB link and be prompted for information according to the ZIP code where they are registered to vote.

The system presents the federal candidate lists for a voter’s district. Voters can mark their ballot on the computer or print it out and mark it by hand. Users are then provided the address of their home county election official where they mail their write-in ballot.

OVF and Defense Department officials recommend that overseas voters who don’t receive their ballot by Sept. 30 use the FWAB.

The new tool was unveiled at a military and overseas voter summit hosted by The Pew Center on the States, where a bevy of voter advocates and state election officials discussed how to better serve such voters.

Due to late primaries, varying election deadlines and slow mail service in war zones, some absentee voters might not get their ballots counted this year, according to preliminary research released Monday by Pew.

Military Postal Service Agency officials said this summer that absentee ballots would be expedited in and out of the war zones Sept. 1 through Election Day.

Making voting overseas easier for the troops is a topic "at the core of democracy," said Michael Caudell-Fegan, director of Pew’s Make Voting Work initiative.

It’s unclear how well the current system serves military voters and overseas Americans in general.

According to the federal Election Assistance Commission, only about 992,000 of the estimated 6 million overseas Americans requested an absentee ballot in the 2006 race. That included about 119,000 military personnel outside the States, with only about 57,000 of those military ballots successfully cast and counted.

The Pew voting initiative is a multi-year project to generate solutions to the overseas voting issue that will continue beyond Election Day, Caudell-Fegan said.

"Our work can’t stop in November, and it too often does."


Waiting for a ballot?

Did you register to vote and request an absentee ballot for this election? Are you still waiting for it to arrive? If so, you can use the federal write-in absentee ballot, which will let you vote in your district’s federal races. Voting officials recommend using the FWAB option if you don’t receive your ballot by Sept. 30.

To use a new automated system that will help you fill out a write-in ballot for your home county, log on to www.overseasvotefoundation.org.

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