Making sure such voters can cast ballots in federal elections is the mission of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), a Defense Department office that offers assistance not just to military personnel, but to any U.S. citizen who needs help casting a ballot from overseas. It offers resources, including a wizard on its website that takes a voter through the entire process of registering to vote and casting a ballot in the appropriate jurisdiction. But Robert Carey, FVAP’s director, said his office’s assistance role to state and local governments is just as important. … Carey said 2009 was a watershed year in terms of election law changes designed to improve voter participation among servicemembers and overseas voters. Among other things, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act requires state and local elections officials to mail absentee ballots to servicemembers at least 45 days prior to an election in order to ensure a ballot can make its way to a remote location — and back to elections officials — in time to be counted.
… Carey acknowledged that online ballot delivery — and perhaps the fully-electronic casting of ballots one day — introduce new cybersecurity risks. “There is substantial risk in the current voting system,” he added. “If the military voter had the same voting success rate as the general population, about 200,000 more military ballots would have been cast in 2010. So the current system already has a very high risk of disenfranchisement. Those that criticize Internet voting seem to think there can be absolutely no risk. That’s not fair. Obviously we don’t want to create a system that has more risk than the current system, and that’s what we’re evaluating right now under a mandate from Congress.”
Carey said it’s unlikely that an Internet voting system at the Defense Department-level could get off the ground before 2016 or 2018. Among the issues DoD is sorting through are how to make such a system secure and how to integrate it with the IT infrastructure of the more than 7,000 local jurisdictions that actually run elections. “Some of the attempts by DoD in the past have been to try to develop the entire voting system, soup to nuts,” he said. “But from a policy perspective, I think it’s very problematic for the Department of Defense to actually be tabulating votes. I don’t know of a single state or local election jurisdiction that would allow that, and I don’t think we should be involved in that anyway. We have civilian control of the military, and having DoD tabulate votes would be very problematic.”