Web site aims to make absentee voting easier
April 6, 2008
MUNICH, Germany — A new Web site unveiled last week will give overseas military voters a one-stop site for voter registration, ballot requests and other election-related needs.
Organizers with the Overseas Vote Foundation, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, unveiled the site — https://military.overseasvotefoundation.org — during the foundation’s second annual overseas voting summit Friday in Munich.
Using drop-down navigation menus divided by state, the site features election official directories, a voter help desk, state-specific information and write-in ballot services.
After military personnel or their eligible family members choose a state, the system prompts the user for the information required to register there, according to a news release. Billed as an alternative to voters navigating bulky and confusing regulations on their own, the site features safeguards to ensure forms are filled out correctly and legibly for stateside election officials, the release stated.
Once a voter fills in their information, the site generates a PDF file with the address of the voter’s county election office. Users print it out, sign it and throw it in the mail.
Also Friday, OVF head Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat announced that FedEx will deliver ballots to the States for overseas voters this election year.
“FedEx will step in at some point this year to alleviate some of the practical issues on the table,” she said to an audience that included overseas voters, government election officials and e-voting technologists.
Among the attendees was Missouri Ludlum, a senior airman with the Camp Darby based 31st Munitions Squadron in Italy.
Ludlum, 24, used her vacation time to attend the summit after a confusing stab at absentee voting in 2004.
“By the time I got it figured out, it was too late” to vote, Ludlum said. “I didn’t even know who my [voting assistance officer] was back then.”
OVF helped her navigate the process, she said.
The summit addressed a host of overseas-voting related topics, including the future of Internet voting, how other countries deal with absentee voters and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act, the legislation covering military and civilian voters outside the States.
Bob Carey, a naval reservist and fellow for the National Defense Committee, a military voter advocacy group, said Friday that the main issue with overseas voting remains getting the paper ballot to the voter and then back to the relevant official.
Too many overseas military voters are not getting a fair chance to make their vote count, he said.
Only about 992,000 of the estimated 6 million overseas voters were able to vote in the 2006 election, according to statistics from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
An OVF survey of registered military voters found that 42 percent of those polled said they were unable to vote in the 2006 election.
Of those servicemembers unable to cast their ballot, 85 percent cited the cause as a ballot arriving late or not at all.
“The issue is getting the ballot to military voters,” Carey said.
Despite the initial confusion, Ludlum said she’s helped 20 other airmen in her unit figure out how to vote.
“I like politics a lot and I wanted to vote in 2004,” she said of her missed opportunity. “I was really mad about that.”