Approximately 10 years ago, states began to explore using electronic transmission methods, such as fax and email, to transmit blank ballots to military and overseas voters. At that time, 24 states allowed a blank ballot to be sent to voters via fax only and three states, Florida, Wisconsin, and Virginia, also permitted email transmission in limited cases. Gradually, additional states continued to implement electronic transmission methods in 2006 and in 2008. In 2009, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act formalized the use of electronic technology in the military and overseas voting process by mandating the use of electronic transmission of election materials to UOCAVA voters with options for the electronic delivery of blank ballots. As states became compliant with MOVE, the use of electronic transmission methods for the delivery of blank ballots increased sharply. For example, in 2010, 47 states and the District of Columbia provided for the transmission of a blank ballot via email or Internet download, up from 20 states in 2008. Only two states, Alaska and Rhode Island, offered blank ballots via fax as their method of electronic delivery in 2010. Several states, however, placed restrictions on the use of email for delivery of blank ballots. For example, Colorado only allowed military voters to receive ballots via email and not overseas civilians.
By the 2012 Presidential Election, the MOVE Act was fully implemented and all 50 states and the District of Columbia transmitted blank ballots either via email (38) or Internet download (13). By the 2012 Presidential Election, states had also removed most ballot transmission restrictions affecting civilian voters.
OVF investigated the use of electronic transmission methods of blank ballots in 2012. Our intention was to examine specific questions regarding the effectiveness of these new transmission methods in increasing the number of ballots actually cast and counted by overseas and military voters. Are voters using these new transmission options and if so, what is the outcome? Did the availability of these new transmission methods affect voter participation rates?