Congress should speed ballots to military
Twelve U.S. senators, including Inouye and Akaka, want the Pentagon to use e-mail to provide ballots to military members.
MEMBERS of the military are far more likely to cast ballots in this year's election, despite absentee voting processes that fail to utilize modern technology. Senators Inouye and Akaka and 10 other senators are asking that the Pentagon allow the Internet to be used to put absentee ballots into the hands of service members. Federal legislation requiring states to accept such a system is more appropriate.
Overseas voters, including military members, must contact local officials by regular mail and ask for ballots, which are then mailed to them. Post-election surveys indicate the process takes a minimum of 45 days. Actual absentee voting by mail is needed because of lingering security concerns; states also require postmarking to determine when the ballot was cast.
"Military absentee voting is still conducted in the same way it was conducted during World War II and the Korean War," the senators wrote.
The Defense Department asked five years ago that states and territories allow electronic transmission of applications for voter registration, requests for ballots from military members and then transmission of blank ballots back to service members by local election officials.
That is essentially what the seven Republican and five Democratic senators propose in a letter this month to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They ask that the Pentagon create a system that would allow members of the military to use e-mail to "request, receive, download and print" absentee ballots regardless of their location.
However, voting systems are a function of the states and territories, so there are 55 sets of laws, regulations and deadlines. The Constitution empowers Congress -- not the Pentagon -- to "make or alter such regulations."
Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who prepared the letter, is planning legislation that would make the military voting process easier. Congressional action is necessary to give Rumsfeld the authority to implement such a system.
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