New online tool helps troops overseas vote
WASHINGTON — With the midterm elections approaching, voting activists have developed a new online tool to make it easier for servicemembers deployed overseas to cast their votes.
The Can I Vote Absentee? widget provides information about absentee voting rules and regulations on a state-by-state basis. It also helps people register to vote and request their ballots.
Hundreds of thousands of servicemembers will be overseas on Nov. 4 when Americans go to the polls to choose their representatives. All 435 House of Representatives seats and 33 of 100 Senate seats will be up for grabs, along with 38 state and territorial governorships, seats in 46 state legislatures, four territorial assemblies and many state and local races.
“With military overseas voters, they absolutely depend on voting absentee. And they have to be able to easily access voting services that enable them to get information and register and request their ballot instantly,” Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president of the U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
Absentee voting is on the rise. The rate of ballot return for troops and other Americans overseas nearly doubled between 2010 and 2012, going from 35 percent to 66 percent, according to Dzieduszycka-Suinat. She said that improvements in absentee balloting processes, including the fiscal 2010 Military Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, are largely responsible for the increase.
Registering and acquiring ballots are critical steps in the voting process, but Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, emphasized the importance of getting the ballots mailed back in time.
She encouraged troops to take advantage of the Military Postal Service’s special express mail delivery service for sending ballots. The service is free and gets each ballot back to election officials within two days on average, she told reporters.
“This is really helpful because it makes it a secure and private way to get your ballot back,” she said.
Voting activists participating in the conference call discouraged servicemembers and other Americans from submitting their ballots via email, even though it’s faster than regular mail.
“Sending a ballot back home is a little bit like a security operation,” Smith said. “There’s no guarantee about security and privacy … if we do that” online.
With Election Day just weeks away, Smith said troops shouldn’t procrastinate when it comes to absentee voting.
“They should go ahead and get started soon,” she said. If they “do it now, do it early, then the better chance they have of getting those in on time and getting counted.”