JEFFERSON CITY - In the digital age, it seems like everything can be done with a computer or over email. And now due to federal and state laws, military personnel deployed overseas can use that technology to apply for ballots and vote from combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The laws went into effect in 2010, but the upcoming general election will be the first time people in the military in a combat situation or area of imminent danger can cast their votes for the next president using email. So far, the program has been well received.
"Anything that makes it easier and more convenient for our military overseas voters to vote is certainly a positive development," said Stacie Temple with the Missouri Secretary of State's office.
Military personnel overseas can still cast their ballots through the absentee system, but it can take up to three weeks for people in the military to receive the ballot and another three weeks to send them back. Randy Watson voted in elections when he was stationed overseas and he said it could be difficult to get the ballots back in time before the election.
"Well back then you had to mail it in. You had to mail it back to your election authority. With mail from overseas, you're talking approximately three weeks to get it back. So you have to make sure your timing is right," said Watson, who is now a state voting assistance officer with the Missouri National Guard.
What used to take weeks, now takes only the click of a mouse, if from a combat zone. Military personnel can cast their ballots using the secure email and then follow the ballot until it the local election authority confirms it got the email."[It's] an opportunity to go out there and vote a much easier way now that it was just over a year ago," said Watson.
Watson also said he thinks the changes will increase voter turnout in military personnel deployed overseas.
The Secretary of State's office defines a combat zone or area of imminent danger quite broadly including "Mediterranean Sea" and "Greece (Athens)" along with more obvious areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. See the defined areas.
Military personnel deployed overseas can also vote via fax. Temple said the Secretary of State's office will begin to mail out some military absentee ballots on Saturday and urges people who want more information on the process to go to the Secretary of States website.