Washington, D.C. – Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant told a U.S. House of Representatives committee Tuesday that West Virginia is leading the nation when it comes to implementing pilot programs that make the voting process more safe and secure for military and overseas voters.
Tennant testified before the Committee on House Administration along with elections officials from Indiana and Florida, the Department of Justice, the Alliance for Military and Overseas Voting Rights, and the Military Voter Protection Project.
The testimony heard in the committee focused on the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act and its effectiveness in the 2010 elections.
The MOVE Act was signed into law in 2009, and is designed to make it easier for military members and overseas citizens to cast a ballot. The MOVE Act modified and expanded provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA).
Tennant told the members of the committee that West Virginia is ahead of the curve implementing the MOVE Act, through the use of innovative pilot programs that streamline the voting process.
In order to fully comply with the MOVE Act West Virginia needed to develop new legislation, and revise election procedures and adopt technical solutions.
Tennant said West Virginia’s laws are more stringent than federal laws when it comes to the timing of sending an absentee ballot to a military or overseas voter. Federal law sets the deadline at 45 days before the election; West Virginia code sets the deadline at 46 days.
There were four areas that West Virginia focused on to fully comply with the MOVE Act: voter registration, absentee ballot application, blank ballot transmission, and voted ballot return.
One of the resulting pilot programs was internet voting. Five counties took part in that pilot program during the 2010 primary election and the program expanded to eight counties for the 2010 general election. A separate pilot program was conducted in conjunction with the Federal Voter Assistant Program (FVAP) which focused on blank absentee ballot electronic delivery to county clerks.
“This subject is very personal and special for me,” Tennant told the committee members. “I am the spouse of a United States service member scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in just a few months. My husband, Erik, is scheduled to be deployed on April 8. This means a lot to me and to the people of West Virginia. We have a great deal of people who serve our country.”
The House Committee is chaired by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-California) and the ranking member is Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pennsylvania).
Along with Secretary Tennant the committee also heard testimony from Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, US Department of Justice; J. Bradley King, the co-director of the Elections Division in the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office; David Stafford, the Supervisor of Elections in Escambia County, Florida; Rick Jones, the co-chair of the Alliance for Military and Overseas Voting Rights; and Eric Eversole, the executive director of the Military Voter Protection Project.