Getting out the military vote online
New online tool offers overseas military personnel access to presidential ballots
- By William Jackson
- Sep 16, 2008
The Overseas Vote Foundation has released an online tool to give
U.S. military personnel and other citizens living overseas quick
access to the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.
The Vote-Print-Mail Ballot System is not
online voting, but provides a quick alternative to receiving a
traditional paper ballot by mail. The application transforms the
standard blank paper Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot from an
often-confusing manual form to an easy-to-use form specific to the
voter's district. It automatically matches the voter's
ZIP code to the proper voting district and dynamically generates
their federal candidate lists. Voters select their candidates for
office and then download, print, sign and send the FWAB into their
local election office.
Some states allow the ballot to be used as a combined
registration and ballot, and others also allow its use for
non-federal and primary elections as well as for non-voting
congressional representatives from the District of Columbia and
The ballot tool is the latest in a suite of application hosted
by the Overseas Vote Foundation and created with help
from a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust's Make Voting Work
initiative and the JEHT Foundation.
An estimated 6 million American service members living overseas
are eligible to vote in U.S. elections, but casting votes
traditionally has been difficult, primarily because of delays in
getting ballots delivered from local election officials and
returning them in time to be counted. The Election Assistance
Commission reported in 2007 that only about 992,000 absentee
ballots were requested by this group in 2006, and only slightly
more than 330,000 of these were cast or counted. The most common
reason for requested ballots not being cast, 70 percent, was that
mailed ballots were returned as undeliverable.
Under the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, expatriates who
have requested but not received an absentee ballot from their local
election officials can use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.
The Vote-Print-Mail system makes it immediately available and
matches the users' 9-digit ZIP code for their U.S. residence
to their voting district, so that a ballot specific to the district
can be dynamically crated. The ballot presents a candidate list for
federal races for that district, and for local races if
Voters select the candidates they are voting for online, then
download, print, sign and send the ballot to the local election
office. Addresses and other information on local election offices
also are available online from the OVF.
To help ensure that voted ballots are delivered in a timely
manner, OVF has partnered with FedEx to provide Express Your Vote,
which offers free or discounted shipping rates for ballots from 89
countries. Using the online tool, overseas voters can generate a
FedEx Express Waybill for ballot returns.
Express Your Vote shipping is free from Australia, China and
Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand,
Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The cost is
$18 from Canada, and from the remaining countries, from Afghanistan
to Venezuela, the cost is $23 or $23.50.
William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.