With Absentee Voting on the Rise, Advocates Launch New Tool to Help Voters Request Absentee Ballots, Get Votes Counted
- Dale Eisman
Verified Voting, U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, Rock the Vote and Common Cause to Help Military, Overseas, College and Others Securely Vote Absentee
Washington, DC— Although there’s more than a month until Election Day, for a large and growing population in the United States, early and absentee voting has already begun. Today, voting advocates, including Verified Voting, the U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation, Rock the Vote and Common Cause launched a new online tool designed to help overseas, military, college and other potential absentee voters to secure, fill out, and mail back their ballots for the November mid-term election.
“Absentee voting in midterm elections is on the rise, which shouldn’t be surprising: Americans lead busy, complex lives,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, President and CEO of the U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation and creator of the “Can I Vote Absentee?” widget. “Millions of voters, including overseas and military voters, working parents, professionals who travel or can’t leave work, students, the disabled and the elderly need alternatives to the traditional method of going to a polling place to cast a ballot. Our new online widget can help voting organizations get the word out.”
U.S. Census data suggests 48.3% of voters who did not vote in 2012 cited logistical reasons for not voting, and could have voted absentee. The “Can I Vote Absentee” widget, found on the US Vote Foundation website, is designed specifically with these voters in mind, informing them of the absentee voting options in their state and steering them towards taking concrete action to register to vote and/or request an absentee ballot.
The groups are emphasizing the importance of mailing back ballots. While most other voting related tasks can be done online, sending back marked ballots by email or other Internet portals creates a security risk. For this reason the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) of the Department of Defense has advised that postal mail is the most responsible method of ballot return.[i]
“We’re standing together today to say, absentee voting is as easy as one, two, three: 1) Request your ballot. 2) Mark it. 3) Mail it back,” said Pamela Smith, President of Verified Voting. “Voting absentee by mail is essential to ensuring that Americans will have their ballots received and counted – safely and securely.”
Roughly one-third of all Americans casting a ballot in the 2012 presidential race did so before Election Day, and in some states, the number for 2014 is even larger. Colorado recently moved to all-mail elections, joining Oregon and Washington in promoting this flexible voting method. California is also experiencing a rising demand for mail-in ballots – all states with large military and university presence.
“Millennials – in college and on military bases – are a large and vital block of absentee voters since they’re often not registered to vote where they are living,” said Ashely Spillane, President of Rock the Vote. “We’re meeting young people where they are – online – with the tools to help them register to vote right from their smartphones, dorm rooms or bunks, and even alert their peers through social media. Absentee voting is one more way to ensure their votes are counted.”
The push to reach these voters has increased as the number of absentee voters has increased. In an effort to reach military voters who need to vote absentee, the Department of Defense has declared the week of Sept. 29- Oct. 6 “Absentee Voters Week.” More information about the importance of mailing back your ballot can be found here.
“Our democracy works best when every American has the fullest access to the ballot box. And Election Day already is here for Americans serving or living overseas, and those who will be away from home on Nov. 4,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “We urge all these citizens to act today. The new tool makes it simple to request your ballot, mark it and mail it back.”
[i] Defense Human Resources Activity, Federal Voting Assistance Program “2010 Electronic Voting Support Wizard (EVSW) Technology Pilot Program Report to Congress” May 2013
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U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) provides voters with public access to innovative voter information, registration and absentee ballot request tools and services. More information is available at www.usvotefoundation.org, Twitter (@us_vote), Facebook (US Vote), and Youtube (usvotefoundation).
Verified Voting is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for legislation and regulation that promotes accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections. More information is available at www.verifiedvoting.org.
Rock the Vote is the largest non-profit and non-partisan organization in the United States driving the youth vote to the polls. Fusing pop culture, politics, and technology, Rock the Vote works to mobilize the millennial voting bloc and the youth vote, protect voting rights, and advocate for an electoral process and voting system that works for the 21st century electorate. More is information available at www.rockthevote.com.
Common Cause is the original citizens’ lobby, founded in 1970 by John Gardner, and still advocating for open, honest and accountable government in Washington, D.C. and in all 50 states. Common Cause has more than 400,000 members and supporters, offices in 35 states and activists everywhere. More information is available at www.commoncause.org.
Christy Setzer, Verified Voting; email@example.com; 202-506-6421
Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, U.S. and Overseas Vote Foundation; firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 470-2480
Ashley Spillane, Rock the Vote, email@example.com