Charleston, W.Va. – Continuing her push to help military voters, West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is supporting a bill that would make it easier for soldiers returning from deployment to register to vote.
Senate Bill 400 and House Bill 4257 would allow soldiers returning from deployment to register to vote in the 20 days before an election. However, there is no requirement in the bill for “same day” voter registration.
Under normal circumstances, a voter has until 21 days before an election to register to vote.
“Many military voters enlist in their teens and early twenties, often before they become registered voters,” Secretary Tennant said. “If they do register while in service, they may use a family member’s address or even a temporary address – like a base address – for their registration address. When they return ‘home,’ that address may no longer be available to them. In order to legally cast a ballot, they must register to vote at the address where they now reside.”
Tennant said the number of voters who would be eligible for this option is small, but they represent a very important segment of our population – men and women of the armed services and their families.
“Whenever these men and women return home to West Virginia, they should have the right to register to vote. They fought hard to protect these rights and no one should take them away from these people for any reason.”
Across the country, 36 states now offer late registration options for these voters.
In addition to enlisted personnel, this bill would allow late registration for the spouse or dependent that has been stationed away from home due to the active military service of their family member. Currently, the United States has thousands of families living in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Guam, and elsewhere.
Secretary Tennant also supported a plan in 2010 to allow deployed military and overseas citizens to cast a ballot online. That pilot program resulted in more than 150 voters casting a ballot easily and securely, and without having to waive privacy as is the practice when faxing a ballot to a county clerk’s office.