The State of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board activated a website that will provide absentee ballots to overseas U.S. soldiers and citizens, according to a statement last Thursday.
Previously, soldiers and citizens overseas had to contact their local clerk’s office to obtain a ballot, Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the GAB said in the statement.
The new website, myvote.wi.gov, allows voters that are permanently overseas to obtain their ballots and certificates online. Military service members can receive the ballots immediately, and those individuals who are overseas permanently can also do so once they have been approved, according to the statement.
As of Wednesday, 40 ballots have already been delivered via the new system, according to the statement. Citizens can print their ballots online, but they will still have to mail them to their local clerks in Wisconsin.
Executive Director of the Milwaukee Election Committee Neil Albrecht also recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they have already begun mailing ballots to those voters that have already requested absentee ballots, such as citizens in nursing homes.
According to the GAB statement, part of what sparked this decision was the state changing its law last year to comply with the new federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. This law requires ballots be sent to voters at least 45 days before the election so voters will have enough time to get their ballots back to the U.S. to be counted, according to the statement.
It said in the statement the state law mandates 47 days.
Reid Magney, GAB spokesperson, said he hopes the online ballot will make the voting process smoother for American citizens who are overseas.
“We hope this will make voting easier for service members serving overseas and make it easier for them to cast their votes,” Magney said.
Jay Heck, executive director for Common Cause Wisconsin, said having online ballots will help get the votes back on time to be counted. He said because of the online voting, they expect a higher percentage of votes to come in from overseas this year than the amount that has come in the past.
Heck said there will not be as many overseas votes as there were in 2008 because more soldiers were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time than there are now.
Heck said Wisconsin’s primary elections were bumped up to August rather than September this year in order to accommodate the back-and-forth travel time of ballots for the primary and general elections. Heck said the main reason the online ballot system was set up was to prevent the primary election from being moved to August again.
“The reason why this was done to increase the amount of ballots received and to be in compliance with the federal law,” Heck said. “It was necessary to do this, and this is a good thing. We should see more ballots come in than in prior elections.”