AL becomes first state to offer Armed Forces electronic voting abroad

Alabama becomes the first state in the nation to offer online voting for servicemembers abroad. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Alabama becomes the first state in the nation to offer online voting for servicemembers abroad. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It was only two votes, but this week marked the first time in the U.S. that service members voted purely electronically while abroad, and it was Alabama leading the way.

Secretary of State John Merrill said it will be up to each of the state's 67 counties to participate, but he hopes the program can go statewide before the presidential primaries in March 2016.

For Merrill the policy is two-fold: First it makes it easier for those who defend democracy to participate in it, and second it promotes Alabama as a leader and innovator.

National Guard Maj. Chris Theilacker says electronic voting will make it easier on servicemen and women abroad.

"I go out everyday to make sure our citizens have the right to vote, so by the state and the city providing access to voting no matter where in the world we are, that says a lot about their commitment," Theilacker explained.

The Major is expected to deploy to the Middle East next March, and in 18 years he's served in the military, he knows how voting abroad can be a hassle.

"We've talked about if it is worth the trouble, and it doesn't seem like a lot of trouble, but taking the time out to request that ballot, wait for it to get there, mail may or may not ever get to you when you are in an overseas environment," Theilacker said.

Electronic voting will provide an alternative to the traditional route of sending it back through the mail, and Merrill hopes it will make life easier for those overseas.

"Every military serviceman and woman that are interested in voting have the opportunity to receive their ballot electronically, to vote electronically, and have their ballot returned electronically, and to have their vote cast and counted in a way that they would if they were at their home with their family," Merrill said.

When asked if he would use the electronic version to vote if given the chance Major Theilacker's reply? "Absolutely."

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