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Report Questions Ballot Privacy for Overseas Arizona Military

January 7, 2009

Phoenix, AZ - Arizona military personnel stationed overseas have a choice when it's time to cast their votes in state-side elections: risk having the secrecy of their ballots compromised or have them not count at all. A new report shows that, if service people mail their ballots, they arrive too late to be counted. If they send them by fax, the security and privacy of their votes is at risk. Today, the Make Voting Work project for the Pew Center on the States is recommending extending election deadlines so members of the armed forces have time to send their ballots by regular mail.

Project Director David Becker says the analysis is a first-of-its-kind of state voting laws and procedures for those serving in foreign countries.

"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?"

The report urges Arizona to extend voting deadlines for overseas military by at least two days, or send out ballots earlier so they can return in time.

Becker doesn't blame election officials for the problem. He says state laws just need to be brought up to date.

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

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell concedes that military ballots returned by mail will likely arrive too late to be counted, and that there are privacy concerns with faxes.

"Yes, they probably do lose some of the secrecy of the ballot, but I think if you talk to the majority of them, they would not mind if in fact they did get to vote."

Arizona recently implemented a secure e-mail portal to allow instant and private transmission of military ballots back to the state. Arizona law also allows overseas service members to receive blank ballots by fax, allowing them to receive their voting materials much more quickly.

The full report is at www.pewcenteronthestates.org.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ