Pew, Google Launch New Tool For North Carolina Military and Overseas Voters

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North Carolina military and overseas voters have a new online tool to help them participate in the May 8 primary election, thanks to the Pew Center on the States and Google, through the Voting Information Project. The Web-based application, available on the Board of Elections site, allows individuals to retrieve customized lists of candidates and initiatives on a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot—a backup measure when an original ballot is not received in time—from anywhere in the world using data based on their U.S. address.

As the first state in the nation to offer the tool, voters in North Carolina can use this technology to easily view and make their choices on a ballot, print it out and mail it in. Dozens of other states will make it available for the November general election.

“Because of this innovative tool and the state Board of Election's leadership, tens of thousands of North Carolina citizens serving abroad now have an easier way to participate in the democratic process at home,” said David J. Becker, director of Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States.

This marks the first local election in which North Carolinians stationed out of the state can submit a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot. The North Carolina Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (HB 514), which was signed into law in June 2011, implemented this measure along with a host of other improvements to the electoral process for service members and civilians abroad.

The backup ballot typically is available as a blank printable form for voters to manually write in their personal information and choices for each race and initiative. The new tool makes filling it out significantly easier by providing information straight from the official ballot. Voters can enter their home address to view races and candidates in drop-down menus and then make their selections.

“Having access to information is core to our functioning democracy, and Google is actively working to make tools that help voters connect with the information they need to cast a ballot on Election Day,” said Ginny Hunt, Google Product Manager for Politics & Elections. “Google has a long, consistent history of working to help both voters and election offices across the globe reach voters using technology while supporting new tools to answer voters' most common questions.”

The Voting Information Project (VIP) is an innovative and proven service that uses the latest technology to give voters the information they need to cast a ballot—when they need it and where they are most likely to look for it. Working in partnership with state and local election offices, VIP shapes official election data into a standard, open format, and with technology partners such as Google, organizes it for quick retrieval by voters. In 2010, VIP offered information for elections in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and more than six million people entered their address to find their polling location through the VIP-powered polling place locator.

The Voting Information Project is part of Pew's Election Initiatives, which has helped states improve the election system for military personnel and civilians overseas by ensuring they have enough time to vote. Pew also has been examining the problems posed by the nation's outdated voter registration system and is collaborating with election officials to evaluate options for building a system that is more efficient and accurate, while reducing costs and administrative burdens. 

For more information on Pew's Election Initiatives, visit www.pewstates.org/elections.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. www.pewstates.org

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