(NASHVILLE, TN), March 1, 2010 – Legislation sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) that will make it easier for troops deployed overseas to vote is on its way to the governor for his signature before becoming law. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday night. According to the Pew Center on the States, about half of overseas voters fail to vote or to have their votes counted because of current voting rules.
“I am very pleased that this bill is on its way to becoming law,” said Senator Ketron. “It is outrageous to even think that only half the men and women who serve us ‘in harm’s way’ have their votes counted. This bill works to assure that all our servicemen and women have their votes counted.”
The bill, Senate Bill 2681, authorizes a county Election Commission to e-mail a ballot to each member of the armed forces, as well as citizens temporarily outside the United States, who are entitled to vote and who have submitted a valid application for a ballot. The move will expedite the process so the voter would have more time to make a decision and return their ballot on time. It will also require Tennessee to develop a database that voters overseas can use to see if their ballot has been received by their county election commission to help ensure that their votes are counted.
The legislation helps the state comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which took effect in October. That law requires the Department of the Army and Postal Service to expedite the return of ballots by using express mail, since they cannot be returned electronically due to election security concerns. To assist soldiers and citizens who are living outside the U.S. for work, school or other reasons, the Federal Voting Assistance Program has set up a website where service members can access valuable information and documents to expedite the voting process.
Tennessee had approximately 18,686 overseas voters who participated in the November 2008 election. Under the bill, the new law will take effect August 20, 2010.
“We need to do everything in our power to make it easier for our soldiers, who are defending our freedoms overseas, to have the opportunity to vote and to have that vote counted,” added Ketron. “That is what this legislation would accomplish.”