WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman joined The Pew Charitable Trusts and Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF) today in announcing new Web-based voter services to help the 91,854 Alabamians and more than six million Americans total who are members of the military and civilians living overseas—take the first steps necessary to vote in upcoming elections. Secretary Chapman was one of only two Secretaries of State invited to participate in the national news conference, and has been an active proponent for the military’s right to vote. Alabama is the first of only three states to offer this new technology to our military and overseas voters.
"Men and women of the United States Military and their families stationed overseas already give up many things in order to serve our country—the sacred right to vote should not be one of them," said Chapman. "Working with OVF and Pew will ensure that members of our military have easier access to registering to vote and casting their ballots in upcoming elections."
A recent government report revealed that between two-thirds and one-half of the ballots mailed to overseas voters were not returned in time to be counted for the 2006 election. New research from electionline.org, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts, finds that states have adopted inconsistent processes and requirements for overseas voters, making it difficult for them to participate in the electoral process.
This partnership with OVF is part of a larger effort by Make Voting Work. This multi-million dollar, multi-year project seeks to help modernize elections by advancing policies, practices and technologies that make voting convenient for eligible voters without compromising accuracy. "Alabama is at the forefront of this historic effort and it is my hope that we will become a flagship state in better assisting and equipping members of our military to vote," Chapman said.
OVF’s new Website and integrated voter services applications, available at http://www.overseasvotefoundation.org/, offer a user-friendly online system to automate the complex process facing military and civilian overseas voters attempting to register to vote and request absentee ballots. In addition, OVF provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date listing of local U.S. election office contact information available today through its Election Official Directory.
The Web site prompts the voter for information necessary to register to vote in his/her home state in accordance with each state’s unique regulations. Error-checks occur during the process to ensure that the voter does not forget any required information. The site then generates an official form in PDF format and provides the voter with the correct county election office address for mailing. The program eliminates the need to individually research and navigate unique state regulations and mailing instructions by doing away with the necessity of culling through pages of instructions.
Along with the new site, OVF is announcing a State-Hosted Systems licensing program which enables states to license the new OVF software for their own customized use. Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio are the first states to adopt the OVF-hosted system software for their own election Web sites, giving voters from those states, including those serving in the military and living overseas, access to online registration and ballot request services and information about voting requirements.
According to electionline.org’s analysis, overseas and uniformed services voters must navigate complicated state and local regulations that often delay receipt and processing of both their registration forms and absentee ballots. Outmoded systems employed by election offices and sluggish domestic and international mail services also hamper overseas voters trying to cast their ballots in an effective and timely manner. With this year’s compressed political calendar, these challenges will be exacerbated. While technological innovations around the country, including fax and email voting, have become more widespread, they are still not available to many overseas citizens. The new OVF site and services provide a much needed resource for Americans living abroad.
"With our state’s large number of military men and women serving abroad, it is our privilege to do anything and everything necessary to assist them in casting their vote," Chapman concluded.
Make Voting Work, a project of Pew’s Center on the States, supports policies, practices and technologies that will optimize the accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security of U.S. elections.
Overseas Vote Foundation is the only nongovernmental, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) organization to embrace the Internet and standard Web technology to provide an automated voter registration document generation solution for UOCAVA voters. In the past two years, OVF has developed a technical strategy and made great progress in executing against it.
The Pew Charitable Trusts (http://www.pewtrusts.org/) applies the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Our Pew Center on the States identifies and advances effective policy approaches to critical issues facing states.