electionLine: Alabama works to make sure everyone counts

Alabama works to make sure everyone counts
State becomes first to use online voting system for UOCAVA voters in presidential race

By M. Mindy Moretti

Not everyone gets the opportunity to vote for who their new boss may be, but thanks to a new program in Alabama, that’s exactly what more than 100 UOCAVA voters stationed overseas got to do in the March 1 presidential primary.

Only they didn’t have to find a printer, put pen to paper and then make their way to a mailbox, instead they took to their keyboards and requested and submitted their ballots online.

During the “SEC Primary”, Alabama became the first in the nation to implement statewide, a fully electronic end-to-end voting system for a presidential primary election.

Through the years there have been a multitude of attempts to quickly and securely get service members stationed overseas their ballots and get those ballots returned. Other localities have tested various ways of doing it, but this is the first statewide use of a uniform, all electronic system.

The state used Everyone Counts’ eLect electronic ballot delivery and return system for UOCAVA voters stationed overseas.

“We know that the military often feel as if their voices aren’t heard in the election process because of the hoops that they have to jump through to receive their ballots - much less get them returned on-time. We have a solution that solves that problem and it was proven to be effective this past Super Tuesday for Alabama,” said Lori Steele Contorer, Everyone Counts CEO.

During the March primary 493 UOCAVA voters received their ballots electronically with 173 being eligible to return them also via the secure electronic system. Of those 173 eligible, 128 ballots were returned.

Eligible voters were able to log into a secure website using a special code they received via email and then were able to cast their ballot online. The voter was then notified that the ballot had been received and counted.

The secretary of state’s office considered this to be very successful and will be offering the option to UOCAVA voters again in November.

The state first partnered with the City of Montgomery in October 2015 to test the program on a smaller scale. During that election two service members stationed abroad used the system. Although two may seem like a small number, the state was pleased enough with the results to use the system in March.

“It went well, which is why we chose to carry it over into the regular primary,” Secretary of State John Merrill said. “We were excited about the interest and encouraged that people wanted to participate.”

In the coming months, the state will be working with the military and the local press as well as identifying every possible eligible voter about the system so it can be used more broadly in November.

“We want to reach as many of our voters as possible and be able to have as large of a turnout as possible,” Merrill said.