Right to vote fighters miss out

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, May 16, 2007

By Staff
We live in a state, along with 49 others, where the very men and women who are fighting for our right to vote are often not allowed to cast their own. It makes no sense to me. As if their sacrifice of service is not enough, they are fighting for a freedom they are not even allowed to have - the right to vote. With new technology, there is a way to stop this injustice and let our military men and women vote - secure electronic and/or Internet voting.
Opponents of this proposal are quick to point out that there is an absentee voting process already in place. However, &#8220snail mail,” as we now refer to it does not supply adequate time for the process to be effective. One out of every four overseas voters who have attempted to use that process have not had their votes counted. It takes approximately forty-two days for them to mail an absentee ballot application, have it processed, then be mailed a ballot, vote and return it.  That translates to basically one and a half month's time.
We live in a state and a country where blacks and women were not allowed to vote at one time. If 25 percent of blacks or women were not allowed to vote in Alabama or their votes were not counted, there would be outcries of injustice and discrimination. There would be protests in the streets, boycotts and total pandemonium would ensue.
So where is the outcry of injustice for our men and women in uniform, who have put their careers on hold, taken precious time away from their families, trained to live in temperatures and under conditions we would never dream of living under any day, much less everyday? Where are their rights? They pay taxes here and should have a voice in how they are governed including, but not limited to how their tax dollars are spent. They should also have a voice in who their commander-in-chief should be. We must give them their right to vote at home while they are serving abroad. Anything else would be a downright injustice and a slap in the face of democracy.
Other countries are already providing Internet voting. While I am not a proponent of everyone having that opportunity, the military and overseas citizens should have the opportunity for obvious reasons. The Internet was created by the United States military, so I think we can trust them to use it securely. After all, they do so everyday, as do our banks with millions of dollars, our doctors, lawyers and insurance companies with highly personal confidential information.
My staff and I have spent time in meetings with members of the Overseas Vote Foundation, the Elections Assistance Commission, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and have seen demonstrations of programs that allow safe, secure internet voting.
Senate Bill 431 and House Bill 800 present Alabama with a unique opportunity to become the first state in the country to provide secure internet voting to our military and overseas citizens. With the high percentage of men and women who hail from this great state that serve and live abroad (102,553), it is only fair that they be given a secure, efficient and effective way to cast their votes.  It is even more important that those votes be counted.
With 25 percent of our overseas citizens not getting their ballots counted and an additional 25 percent not attempting to cast a vote, it is time to be concerned. The presidential elections are close at hand and the men and women of the Alabama National Guard and the United States Military are protecting our sacred right to vote. The least we can do is give them theirs.
Please contact your representative today and ask for their support of Senate Bill 431/House Bill 800.  To find a list of your representatives, visit www.legislature.state.al.us or call 334- 242-8000.
Beth Chapman serves as Alabama's 51st secretary of state and is a supporter of our men and women in uniform. She can be contacted at Beth.Chapman@sos.alabama.gov.

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