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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Military voting still on the table in the legislature

Alabama's Military and Overseas Voting Task Force released its report this week and is holding a public meeting on Wednesday.

The bill, House Bill 711, is sponsored byJimmy Martin and has since been modified since the task force unanimously approved the draft legislation in January.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman has been pushing military voting for awhile now and I've been covering the task force meetings for the last year. Chapman, her staff and the task force have modeled their bill on one used in Okaloosa County, Florida that conducted the nation's first electronic voting pilot last year.

The task force has also heard presentations from leading online voting vendors and officials with the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, the Overseas Vote Foundation and the Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.

It's impressive work and most, if not all, military officials support the idea of online/electronic voting to make it easier for them in deployed locations, or even overseas posts. The traditional absentee process is slow, Chapman says, and doesn't allow military voters the time needed to cast their well earned ballots.

That's something a recent Pew Study backed up. The report found that many states didn't allow military voters enough time to cast their ballot and that the process in many states needs adjustment to do so.

The proposed legislation will give military and overseas voters additional methods of voting, including mail, commercial carriers like UPS and Fed Ex, secure fax lines, e-mail and secure electronic transmission, like the kiosks used in the Florida pilot program. The bill would also allow overseas voters to return their ballots by those methods, except e-mail.

I'll have updates after the meeting tomorrow morning. The Constitution and Elections Committee meets at 9 a.m. in room 603 at the State House.


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I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously, 

As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.

In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.

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