Soldiers will have chance to vote

Published 1:49 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Five secretaries of state are touring overseas to impress the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential election on servicemen and servicewomen stationed far from home.

The focus of their visits to various overseas American military bases is to encourage service men and women to vote, either by traditional absentee ballot or by email.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman held a conference call interview about the tour with Mississippi media Tuesday afternoon. He said Mississippi was the first state to implement voting by email. Email voting began in 2004. Other secretaries of state who are participating in the tour include those from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida and California.

One of the tour meetings gave them an audience with the 890th Engineer Battalion out of Vicksburg, Hoseman said.

There has never before has been such a large effort to encourage men and women in the military services to vote from overseas, Hoseman said. About 200 applications for absentee ballots already have been submitted to his office from Harrison, Jackson and Lauderdale counties alone.

“We had a phenomenal response for absentee ballots for service men and women,” Hoseman said.

Once the ballots are sent back to his office, which takes about a month with traditional mail, they are sent to the serviceman’s or servicewoman’s home county and counted in the appropriate precinct. Using email is faster, but there is concern from Florida and California secretaries of state about security. Hoseman said that the benefits of speed and increased ability for servicemen and servicewomen to vote outweighs the concern for security.

Email ballots contain a PDF file that can be filled out by the voter, Hoseman said.

So far the participation process has been good. Hoseman said of the 3,400 ballots requested by servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq, about half have been cast. Servicemen and servicewomen do need to be registered to vote, and if they are not, there is a process for them to register while overseas.

In Iraq alone there are between 150,000 to 170,000 servicemen and servicewomen who have access to the absentee or email ballots. Worldwide, Hoseman estimates there are more than a million men and women who could utilize absentee or email ballots to participate in the upcoming election.