16. States should provide ballots and registration materials to military and overseas voters via their websites.

The Commission made particular note of the problems that can plague military and overseas voters as they register, receive a ballot, return the ballot, and have it counted as cast. Without access to local election offices, distance can be a hurdle when a voter stationed in a far-off location ten time zones away needs to interface with election administrators. While praising the major improvements brought about by federal legislation such as the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, the Commission found major inconsistencies between states as to how the laws are enforced. For example, "two soldiers, both using the same [postcard voter] form in different states, could have their registrations and ballot requests become inoperative at different times."

To help ameliorate some of the challenges military and overseas voters face, the Commission recommended that states provide ballots and registration materials on their websites. This should not be confused with actually voting via the Internet, which we oppose due to security and privacy concerns, but making voter registration forms and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) available online is an important improvement in the voting process for military and overseas voters.

The Commission explained that states vary in the types of resources and information available on their websites, including the prominence with which the websites display information to military and overseas voters. Two of the most important items that should be included on websites are the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA), an absentee ballot request that can be retrieved online, filled out by hand and then mailed, e-mailed, or faxed to the election administrator, depending on the states' requirements; and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB), which serves as an emergency ballot in case voters fail to receive their absentee ballot. This is an area where many states could make big improvements to voter services with low administrative costs.

The states examined in this report are inconsistent in what they display on their military and overseas voter information pages regarding the FPCA and the FWAB. Every state examined in this report, except Alaska and Michigan, includes a link or online version of the FPCA directly on its website. All but Michigan and Pennsylvania include a link to the FWAB directly on their websites. All states, however, make reference to the FPCA and the FWAB, and if the form is not located directly on their websites, they provide links to the federal government's Federal Voting Assistance Program's website run by the Department of Defense.

The states also vary in their consistency regarding extra information to military and overseas voters (for example, frequently asked question (FAQ) sections and ballot tracking resources). Colorado and Kentucky have strong military and overseas voters' informational sections on their websites. Colorado's site includes 2014 election information, voter and general information, forms, suggested websites, contact information, and an online tool for military and overseas voters to access a ballot. Kentucky's website has a detailed FAQ section and an "online wizard" to help overseas voters and their relatives cast ballots. Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska and Florida all have a link to track a request for an absentee ballot or the status of a returned ballot.

Still, all states could make major improvements to webpage design to ensure that important information is clearly marked.



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