Charleston, W.Va. – West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant, the state’s chief elections officer, told a group of military members and their families that it is her duty to make sure they have the opportunity to cast their ballot, no matter where in the world their duty takes them.
Secretary Tennant spoke during the annual conference of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States Tuesday in Charleston. Nearly 2,000 representatives from the National Guard in 54 states and territories attended the conference.
“Seasons still change, and elections still happen,” Tennant said, pointing out that people here at home were able to cast their ballot freely because of what our military members are willing to do. “I can’t do anything about the seasons changing, but I can play a role in the elections. I can’t tell you who is going to win, and I can’t choose who the winners are going to be, but I can make those elections more accessible. Not just accessible to the people here in West Virginia but to the people who are stationed overseas.”
Tennant detailed West Virginia’s online voting pilot project, which has become the model for other states who want to employ a secure, efficient, and timely method for voters who are covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). Overseas voters had the option of logging into a secure server, voting their ballot, and then transmitting it back in an encrypted form. Only their county clerk in West Virginia could open their ballot.
Overseas voters also had the option of voting in the standard absentee method, where they request a ballot by mail. The overseas voter would then vote their ballot and send it back via mail, fax, or email.
Tennant has detailed the online voting pilot program before a U.S House of Representatives panel and during a conference of The Heritage Foundation.
She also said the Secretary of State’s Office has applied for grants to develop other programs like a partnership with the Department of Defense for online ballot delivery and online voter registration for military and overseas voters.
“We are part of national discussions and debate and we look for ideas and initiatives that will work in West Virginia for our men and women in uniform. It’s my goal to provide some sort of normalcy for the men and women who are overseas, and making sure they have the chance to vote is part of that.”
West Virginia has a special gubernatorial election – the fourth statewide election in less than 14 months – on October 4, 2011. Absentee ballots will be sent to overseas voters beginning on Friday, August 19, 2011 – the state required 46 days before the election.