The 96-0 vote on House Bill 2483 came Friday after sponsors in both parties characterized it as a fitting tribute to the thousands of soldiers who serve in Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the globe. The bill also would make voting easier for relief workers, business people, Peace Corps members, missionaries and others who are away from home.
The bill doesn’t authorize online voting, but does make it easier for overseas and military folks to cast ballots from abroad by allowing counties to email ballots to them. The voter would then print out the ballot, sign it, scan it, and either email it or snail-mail it back to the county. The ballot could be processed without the county having to wait for the actual paper ballot to arrive back at the elections office, as current law requires. That requirement essentially makes faxing or emailing a ballot useless and confuses voters.Recently enacted federal legislation, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act says voters must be allowed to designate how they wish to receive their ballots, by mail or electronically.
The House vote came as Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, head of the state military department and the National Guard, watched from the speaker’s rostrum and uniformed personnel looked on from the galleries. Military and veterans’ organizations are among the strongest supporters of the bill.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, who requested the bill as the highest priority of the state Elections Division this session, said he’s “delighted with the speedy, unanimous House vote.” He and Elections Director Nick Handy said they hope the strong House send-off will encourage the Senate to show the same sense of urgency and priority for our military and overseas voters.
Faxed or emailed ballots are already counted in 20 states: Oregon, Alaska, Montana, California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Indiana, West Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
In the 2008 General Election in Washington, over 67,000 military and overseas ballots were mailed out and about 49,000 were returned, for a turnout of about 73 percent. The overall turnout was a record 85 percent.