West Virginia, which broke new ground in 2010 by allowing some of its overseas and military voters to cast their ballots over the Internet in a pilot project, hasn’t yet decided if that option will be available for them in November, 2012.
According to Dave Nichols, Manager of Elections in West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s office, the legislation that authorized remote Internet voting on a trial basis in 2010 “has expired and not been renewed.”
As for the future of remote Internet voting for its overseas citizens, “We’re not ruling it out. We may do it again. We haven’t decided yet,” the election official told Etopia News. He said that the pilot Internet voting program “was successful,” but that further study was needed regarding the security and cost of Internet voting systems before a decision could be made on continuing or expanding Internet voting in his state for overseas West Virginians.
In the “Findings” section of a Legislative Report on the remote Internet voting trial from Secretary of State Tennant’s office it was stated that:
“There is no doubt that online voting is a popular option for those voters having the opportunity to utilize the full system. The process is convenient-- allowing the voter to cast a ballot at a time suitable to the time zone in which he is currently located. The process is efficient-- there is no need to print a ballot, travel to a postal facility or access a fax machine. The process is adaptable--accessible to users in a variety of circumstances, including those with limited access to printers, faxes, or traditional mail systems. Following are some of the comments received from online voters:
“'Thank you for allowing Monroe County as a Pilot Program in Voting Online. I am presently in Iraq on assignment with Operation Iraqi Freedom and this online voting process gave me a chance to Vote here while in a Combat Zone. Many of our soldiers last election did not have their vote counted due to being overseas in a combat zone. That was wrong for their vote Not to count. This way that you have developed is excellent. Thank You.'
“'I will be working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for at least the next two years. This program has enabled me to still cast my vote from 8500 miles away. I have nothing but praise for this system.'”
The Legislative Report concludes with a recommendation by the Secretary of State that a study committee be convened to consider “voter participation and feedback, security considerations, cost-per-voter, legislative mandates and administrative requirements.”
According to Manager of Elections Nichols, this recommendation has been implemented through “several meetings with state and local officials.” As of now, he said, overseas and military voters in the May 8th primary election will be able to vote using e-mailed .pdf ballots that they will mark and return by traditional methods.
As for the November 8th general election, he added, “we are keeping our options open.” He elaborated by saying that those options include being able to electronically mark the blank ballot and print it out, before returning it through legacy channels and/or “online voting.”
Asked about the criteria that will be used to determine if online voting will be an option, Nichols listed, “security, cost-efficiency, and what best serves the voter.”