A report issued by the Pew Center on the States earlier this month said only half of states in the nation give their servicemembers stationed abroad enough time to vote absentee in local elections.
“No Time to Vote”“ lambasted 16 states and the District of Columbia for not serving military voters overseas, considering the states’ election systems, the time required for mail delivery and other factors. Three other states were considered to be at risk, and another six give voters enough time to submit ballots but researchers had concerns about the process. South Carolina fell into the latter category.
“Imagine two Americans, one from Alabama and one from Kansas, stationed together in Iraq,” said Sue Urahn, managing director for the Pew Center on States in a statement. “Thanks to the differences in the states’ laws, Jane from Kansas will get her ballot sooner and have more time to return it and have it counted than will her fellow soldier, John from Alabama.”
“It shouldn’t matter what state you’re from — all Americans at home or abroad should have access to an election system that works for them,” she wrote.
The report classified the states that gave military voters enough time to vote as ones that give at least five extra days to servicemembers beyond the 45 days that federal law calls for. By comparison, the absentee voter system in Alabama — one that is entirely reliant on the postal system and requires voters to have their ballots notarized — makes it nearly impossible for servicemembers to get their ballots in on time.
Though the report praised those states who give voters their ballots in a timely fashion and allow enough time to receive those ballots, Pew’s report did raise security questions about the number of ways South Carolina allows those ballots to be counted.
According to the report, South Carolina’s acceptance of ballots via e-mail and fax from servicemembers raises important questions about the integrity and security of that vote.
“Allowing military voters overseas to return their ballots electronically helps ensure they have time to vote, but it also raises questions about the voters’ privacy and the security of the ballots as well as access to the technology,” the report said.
Citing a finding by the Government Accountability Office, researchers said ballots submitted electronically or by fax are, “more vulnerable to privacy and security compromises than the conventional methods now in use.”
The states criticized in the report for not giving military personnel enough time to vote included
- New Hampshire
- New York
- South Dakota
- The District of Columbia
To view the full report, click here.