Online Vote Option a Popular One

Help America Vote Act and Everyone Counts allows voters to try online pilot 


NewsandSentinel.com 

PARKERSBURG - A number of Wood Countians have taken advantage of an online pilot project, which permits members of the military, their spouses and overseas citizens to vote an absentee ballot online.

The 2010 U.S. Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act pilot project provided an Internet absentee option to vote a secure Internet connection to military personnel and their spouses, and citizens still registered in West Virginia, but living overseas. The pilot project included five counties: Jackson, Kanawha, Marshall, Monongalia and Wood. The system uses encryption to ensure ballot security. Wood County clerk Jamie Six said out of 24 voters who applied for an online ballot, 18 ballots had been received so far.

"The whole methodology is working extremely well. I think, we as elected officials on the local and state levels, need to do a better job of making sure those who are qualified to use it, know it's available. We hope to continue to get the word out," Six said.

Two Wood County residents who are overseas, one in the military, another a student, took advantage of the online voting opportunity and had nothing but praise for how it worked.

"I knew the election was coming up soon so I went to the Wood County clerk's webpage to see what I needed to do to get my absentee ballot. I thought it was going to be the same paper ballot I've always had to request, but then I came across the option for online voting. So I opted for the online voting instead of the absentee paper ballot," said Jordan Poling of Parkersburg. Poling is studying and teaching at the University of Castilla-La Mancha as part of an overseas program through Ohio University and she's living in Ciudad Real, Spain, but is still a registered Wood County voter.

"I think it's a great idea. It's much easier and appears to be more efficient than the absentee ballot by mail. I wish we had online voting as an option in general. I would have voted absentee ballot by mail if the online option weren't available because I believe that voting is important no matter where you are. For the past two presidential elections, I voted absentee ballot by mail because I was overseas. The absentee paper ballot was long and confusing, and it came with a lot of directions. I also had to make sure that I mailed it in time for my vote to be counted, not to mention that foreign post offices aren't easy to find," Poling said.

Poling sent a thank you email to the clerk's office as well, noting she voted the ballot as soon as she received it.

Ronald Harmon, who is among the military stationed in Afghanistan, also chose the online option.

"Done, it's quick and easy, thank you again for following up with the process," he said in an email message to the clerk's office. Deputy clerks said ballots have been sent to places like Yemen, Norway, France and Spain along with Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The pilot project is on the agenda for our June clerk's meeting, to talk about what worked, what didn't. There are two companies handling it in West Virginia so I'm sure they'll be comparing the two," Six said, noting he's predicting the program will become statewide.

The deadline to receive the online ballots is 7:30 p.m. election day.

"The morning of election day we will decrypt all those received so far, have them randomly printed out then the teams will enter them into iVotronics so they will be included in the election night totals. Then at 8 p.m. election day we will decrypt anything that came in that day and they will also randomly be printed and added in. The teams will consist of two Democrats and two Republicans. One each of the two party members will read the ballot while the other confirms at the same time, then both party representatives will enter the information into the touchscreen voting machines, it's the same procedure as with the absentee by mail ballots," Six noted.

The pilot project was funded the Help America Vote Act, it was done at no expense to the county.

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