A senior Pentagon official said Tuesday that the problems experienced by service members trying to vote by absentee ballot can only be resolved by using the Internet — but that won’t be possible in time for the fall elections.
Michael Dominguez, principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told a House Administration Committee that electronic voting for service members is a long-term solution to the difficulty of voting by mail.
“It is not going to be available for the 2008 elections, obviously, but there is no reason it cannot be available for the next general election,” Dominguez said.
The administration committee, chaired by Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., appears divided about whether electronic voting is the answer.
Rep. Daniel Lungren, R-Calif., said he does not object to using the Internet to deliver blank absentee ballots and other election materials to service members, but he has “a problem with going to Internet voting.”
Fraud is the major worry, he said.
Others disagreed. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, said he thinks “the time is now,” and wonders why it is taking the military so long to set up Internet voting.
Gonzalez said he understands the concerns about ballot security, but added that cannot think of any system more secure than a military computer network.
Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Sectaries of State, said she shares some of the same concerns about security as Lungren, but has come to believe Internet voting is the only solution for the military.
“With computer technology achieving feats that were once unimaginable — numerous trips to the moon and beyond, cars that park themselves, robots that sweep and vacuum our floors, and running shoes with computer chips that track our distance — the problem of not allowing our military men and women every possible opportunity to vote is a travesty of justice,” Chapman said.
She said she does not believe that internet voting should be available to the general public, but it should be available to the military.
“The U.S. military created the Internet, so I think we can trust them to use it securely,” she said. “After all, they do so every day through common access cards and … accounts [that] allow them to change their direct deposits, review their retirement status, e-mail their families and other things of a confidential nature.”
With secure Internet voting delayed, the Pentagon and Brady’s committee are looking for some quick fixes to speed ballot delivery for the upcoming November elections.
One idea being considered is to use commercial package delivery services, rather than the U.S. Postal Service, to deliver completed ballots to election officials.
Dominguez said he does not think this is necessary because the Pentagon has reached an agreement with the Postal Service for expedited delivery of election-related material that will begin in September.