West Virginia Counties Implement New Online Voting Capabilities for Military and Overseas Voters

Everyone Counts helps UOCAVA voters in West Virginia 

In accordance with the new Military and Overseas Empowerment (MOVE) Act, three counties in West Virginia will be using a new online system that will allow military and overseas voters (UOCAVA) to vote electronically. The program, eLect Universal, developed by Everyone Counts, a San Diego, California based company that provides secure universal access solutions and consulting, will be used in Kanawha, Monongalia, and Wood counties in the upcoming 2010 May primary and November general elections.

According to Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick, a little over 200 of the county’s voters will have the ability to vote using the new system. Approximately 150 UOCAVA voters are currently registered in Monongalia County and 110 are registered in Wood County.  Lori Steele, CEO of Everyone Counts, said officials are hoping to use the new program to significantly increase the number of individuals registered as UOCAVA voters. Steele said that these counties were selected because of their high percentage of potential UOCAVA voters.  There are an estimated 42,714 UOCACA potential voters with a residence in West Virginia.  

To use eLect Universal, voters can fax or email ballot applications to the county clerk’s office. Once approved, voters will receive an email with a unique username and password that will allow them to log onto the system. After logging on, voters will be asked additional security questions, including their birthdate and the last four numbers of their Social Security numbers. Voters will then have the ability to cast their ballots electronically. The ballots will be encrypted using “military grade security,” according to Steele. Once the ballot has been electronically cast, voters will receive a code they can use to see if the ballot was received and processed. UOCAVA voters have until the polls close at 7:30 pm on election day to submit their ballots electronically.  

When the county clerk’s office receives the electronic ballot, the voter eligibility will be verified. Identification information will be stripped from the ballot. In each county, a quorum of election judges with unique passwords will decrypt and print the ballots. A resolution team will then complete an optical scan ballot that will be processed with other absentee and early voting ballots. There will be no way to trace ballot selections back to any individual voter.  

McCormick underscored the importance of giving military and overseas voters “the same advantages as all other voters.” Steele said she is “thrilled West Virginia is taking a leadership role” in what she describes as “the first step to make sure that everyone defending the rights of this country is getting his or her ballot counted.” Voters have also been happy with the new system. McCormick said usability tests were conducted using members of the National Guard and that participants were very pleased with the security features and the ease of use. In addition, McCormick states that the system will be implemented without any additional cost to the county.   

In 2008, military and overseas voters in Kanawha County had the opportunity to receive ballots via fax or e-mail. According to McCormick, only thirteen people opted to receive them by e-mail. She is hoping to increase participation in online voting. The county is undergoing an extensive education campaign including sending a letter to uniformed service personnel, and posting the letter, along with a copy of application on the county Web site.