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New Study: S.Dak. Slow to Give Overseas Military Voters Time to Vote

January 7, 2009

Washington, DC - A report out this week from the Pew Center on the States lists South Dakota as one of 16 states not providing enough time for overseas military personnel and other Americans overseas who vote absentee to ensure their vote will be counted.

David Becker, director of Pew's Make Voting Work project, says military voters from South Dakota are allowed to request their ballots by fax or e-mail, but the state requires those ballots be sent to and from voters by postal mail. He says the state could address the problem by mailing blank ballots earlier, extending the deadline by which completed ballots must be received to be counted, or a combination of the two that will add at least 20 days to the voting process.

"When our service men and women don't have enough time to vote, their votes often don’t count. And who can deny that they have as much right as any citizen to express their voices in our democracy. Right now, while these voters are serving America, America's voting system is not serving them."

State election officials are trying to find ingenious ways to best serve these voters, says Becker, but find themselves dealing with laws that are out outdated.

"There are a great number of local election officials that are doing a really great job doing the best they can with the laws that they're stuck with."

Pew is working with election officials to improve the overseas voting process, and designing uniform standards because state procedures vary widely.

David Law, Public News Service - SD