Representative Looper

Voting Overseas by Armed Forces

By State Representative Marsha Looper

Representive Looper represents Colorado House District 19 and serves on the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee; and the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

During last year's historic elections, United States citizens went to the polls in record numbers. Many took advantage of modern voting techniques, including absentee ballots and early voting. These processes for voting are relatively new, and were designed to make voting more convenient. Unfortunately, absentee voting is not easy for all of our citizens, especially those who are fighting to protect our right to vote -- members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving overseas.

Recent studies have shown that many members of our military are not voting due to state laws and bureaucracy. Take a look at the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act 2007 survey. The survey found that 47 percent of service members who wanted to vote never had the chance. The survey also found that of the 992,034 absentee ballots requested in 2006, over 660,000 never reached officials to be counted. These numbers are astounding. During the 2008 General Election, many Colorado men and women of the armed services whom requested ballots, unfortunately never received them.

The Pew Center on the States recently released a study that calls on states to take major steps to ensure all of our military personal have access to a ballot, and that their vote is counted! One of their chief suggestions is for states to allow servicemen and women to vote electronically, thus giving military members and governments time to ensure votes are submitted and counted in a timely manner.

Colorado currently provides limited email and fax ballot options. I believe we need to offer a real-time, electronic ballot to our troops overseas. Internet capabilities combined with encryption, sufficient security and secrecy will provide the real-time access to the ballot our troops deserve. We will lead the way to ensure those serving our country overseas will not be disenfranchised. That is why I will be presenting House Bill 1205(HB1205) to the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 17, 2009. HB1205 allows for the creation of a pilot program that will modernize Internet voting techniques for members of our military serving overseas while requiring the preservation of the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.

By creating this system, the state would drastically lower clerical errors, eliminate lost mail-in ballots and encourage overseas military personnel to vote. The bill requires the protection of privacy for the voters, prevents the casting of multiple ballots, and is designed to protect against abuse of the system.

The Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program, Secretary of State, many Colorado County Clerk and Recorders and most importantly the military men, women and family members of Colorado support the pilot program and Colorado's leadership in this very important issue. This legislation will help us develop a working model of electronic voting techniques that will provide Internet access to our troops overseas with the necessary security and privacy our military men and women deserve.