The Montgomery Advertiser
June 24, 2011
security in elections is crucial, but concerns over ensuring that the person
who casts a ballot is eligible to do so has in the past stopped Alabama from
adequately addressing another crucial need -- ensuring that members of the U.S.
military serving overseas have a fair opportunity to vote.
should change under a new law that gives military and other overseas voters new
options for returning their absentee ballots.
the past, Alabama strictly limited overseas voters to just two methods of
returning absentee ballots -- by hand or by U.S. postal mail. And since hand
delivery is not a realistic option for most service members, that meant
essentially postal mail.
Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman has been pushing for several years to
allow other options, and this year the Legislature went along with her.
Lawmakers approved a bill 97-0 in the House and 30-0 in the Senate to expand
the ways overseas voters can return ballots. The bill was sponsored by Sen.
Gerald Dial, R-Lineville.
the new law, military and other overseas voters will be able to return ballots
by fax, secure electronic transmission, and through such commercial ground and
air carriers as FedEx and UPS.
should help to increase the number of overseas voters who participate in the
state's elections. According to the Secretary of State's office, approximately
only 4,800 absentee ballots were requested by military and overseas voters in
the most recent election, and of those only about 1,100 were returned.
the legislation was being considered, Chapman said: "We must ensure that
our military voters are able to cast their ballots. Those who defend democracy
should be allowed to participate in it."
sentiment is right on target.
concerns about ballot security cannot be taken lightly, either. The Secretary
of State's office should monitor the process closely during the next few
election cycles to ensure that no one abuses these new methods of returning
not likely to happen, but it won't hurt to check. Even if tweaks have to be
made to the new law, we applaud Chapman and the Legislature for seeking ways to
make it easier for U.S. military members serving overseas to vote.