As state gets $2.2 mil. grant for overseas voting, task force looks at how to improve it for military personnel

10/08/2013 06:16 PM

Delays with mail in some parts of the world and frequent moving around are two of the biggest barriers to military personnel getting their ballots back on time to Kentucky clerks each election, according to Kentucky military leaders.

Three of them testified at the first Task Force on Military and Overseas Voting Assistance on Tuesday.

For instance, Lt. Col. Dallas Kratzer told the committee that of the 39 people in his unit, only about half were able to cast their ballots in the last election for myriad reasons, including that the unit moved around so much and that many personnel didn’t request absentee ballots before being deployed.

And Sgt. Maj. Thomas Chumley, the state Command Sergent Major, told the task force that when his unit was deployed to the Horn of Africa, getting mail in and out was challenging.

At the meeting, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes also announced that the state would get $2.2 million in grants from the Federal Voting Assistance Program to help set up an overseas voting system. That includes helping pay for a ballot delivery system that Grimes’ office recently put out to bid for a second time.

The bid requirements call for a system that not only can deliver ballots electronically to deployed military personnel but also protect the ballots if they are electronically returned. That’s in the event Kentucky legislators change the law to allow electronic return of ballots, Grimes told reporters.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said at the meeting that he expects Kentucky will eventually move to electronic ballot return, but that clerks are concerned that the technology just isn’t there to protect the integrity of the ballots yet.

“They want to make sure that we’re ready, that it’s safe and secure,” Higdon said of the clerks. “I think we’ll eventually get there … Like I said, it’s a matter of when, not if.”

He made those comments after asking Chumley what he noticed when military personnel from other states that allow electronic voting cast their ballots.

The task force will meet for a second time in early November, and the Senate’s co-chairman of the group, Republican Joe Bowen of Owensboro, said county clerks who have expressed concern about electronic ballot return will get their say at one of the next meetings.

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