In 2009, the US Senate passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The MOVE Act was an addition to the National Defense Authorization Act of that year and required states to ensure that the votes of all US troops deployed overseas be counted during an election. States took various paths toward ensuring that our troops would be able to participate in the elections taking place at home in 2010. Utah chose to implement online voting for service members deployed overseas from their state.
Other options included traditional absentee ballots where deployed service members are required to fill out paper ballots and return them by mail. This option is difficult for many military members overseas because the post can take much longer to be delivered and returned. Paper ballots for military members can become such a large hurdle that some troops will not request the ballots at all. Virginia alone has seen a 92% drop in requests this year.
By choosing to use an online voting system instead of a paper ballot, troops can vote from any on-base computer terminal and know that their vote has been counted, and counted on time.
Aside from its accessibility another stroke of genius of an online voting system lies in the use of preexisting registration forms and ballots. Utah based military personnel who had already filled out absentee forms were granted access to an online ballot instead of being sent and returning a paper ballot. Ideally, using existing forms allows electioneers to pass on collecting physical signatures from voters. But, under the new Utah plan, a service member is still required to sign a verification form and return it via mail to the Secretary of State in Utah. Regardless of the hurdle, 100% of participants preferred using an online ballot if it were offered again.
In The Next Segment: The best arguments against online voting systems.