Washington, D.C. – During a live webcast of a Heritage Foundation forum Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said West Virginia continues to lead the nation in safe and secure electronic voting for military and overseas voters.
The forum, focusing on Military Voting Rights, also featured Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman and Seminole County (Fla.) Elections Supervisor Mike Ertel.
“This issue is especially close to me because my husband, Erik, is a Navy Reservist and is currently deployed in Afghanistan,” Tennant said. “We have to make sure the men and women wearing the uniform overseas have the right to vote in an efficient and secure manner. They are, after all, fighting to protect our right to vote here at home. We owe it to them. This is our solemn obligation.”
Tennant laid out West Virginia’s compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, passed by Congress in 2009. The Mountain State’s chief elections officer detailed the Online Voting Pilot Project, which was approved by the state legislature in 2009, that saw five counties offer secure electronic voting during the 2010 primary and eight counties offer secure electronic voting during the 2010 general election. Tennant also said West Virginia law is more stringent when it comes to when blank absentee ballots must be transmitted to overseas voters: federal law requires 45 days while West Virginia law requires 46 days.
“This method of voting uses military style encryption to transmit a ballot,” Tennant said. “And when a person votes in this manner, they do not have to give up their privacy like they do when they vote by fax.”
Tennant said while the internet option was available for voters of the counties participating in the project they could still vote by mail, fax, or by email.
Tennant also pointed out that the Secretary of State’s Office reached out to organizations such as Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad to contact nonmilitary overseas voters, and to the National Guard to let military members and their families know about the Online Voting Pilot Project. Her office also used public service announcements and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to increase awareness.