The Kentucky House Elections Committee took a step in the right direction when it restored provisions to Senate Bill 1 that would permit Kentucky's military and overseas voters to return executed ballots electronically and extend the receipt deadline for timely mailed ballots.
The use of electronic transmission for absentee balloting materials is not a new concept. In fact, Kentucky law already allows military and overseas voters to apply for and receive absentee ballots via fax or email. The problem is that executed ballots may be returned only by mail and must be received by 6 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.
As I saw firsthand last year when visiting our military men and women in the Middle East, international mail is unreliable and printers and fax machines often are not available to deployed service members.
Thus, despite recent changes in federal and state voting laws, it remains difficult for Kentucky's military and overseas voters to receive, fill out and return their ballots in time to be counted. This resulted in more than 300 military and overseas ballots not being counted in the 2012 General Election.
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SB 1 gives the General Assembly the opportunity to remove the obstacles our military and overseas voters face. As it was originally filed and under the House Elections Committee Substitute, SB 1 would permit executed ballots to be returned via a secure electronic transmission system and extend the receipt deadline by two days for mailed ballots.
These provisions are crucial to ensuring that Kentuckians who risk their lives on the battlefield have their voices heard at the ballot box.
As the commonwealth's chief election official, maintaining voter privacy and the integrity of our elections is paramount to me. Fortunately, technology available today can allow voters to return executed ballots electronically while maintaining their security and secrecy. And the technology has proven successful in 24 other states that already permit military and overseas voters to return executed ballots via the Internet.
We owe it to our 65,000 military personnel and 350,000 veterans to make sure they never have to ask again, "Does my vote actually count?" SB 1 can help us do that.
I hope the members of the House will join me in protecting our military and overseas citizens' right to vote and pass the bill as amended by the House Elections Committee.
I urge citizens to contact their local election officials and state legislators and tell them that Kentucky stands with its military and to express support for the full measure.