Military voters can cast ballots online

New 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

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 Puerto Rico.

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 allowed.

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.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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