08/16/2008 - As U.S. troops fight for the rights of others to vote, are they losing their own? Our fighting men and women routinely have a lower voting rate than their civilian counterparts. They often have more urgent matters than completing absentee ballots. Still, the strikingly low participation rate has members of Congress wondering whether ballot access has gone missing in action and how to rescue it.
Only 5.5 percent of eligible military and civilian Americans overseas voted in the 2006 midterm election, says the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. A big reason for the feeble turnout: red tape ensnaring GI Joe and GI Jane.
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Some states are starting to accept such last-century innovations as faxes for ballot applications. But the ballots still must be mailed.
Fortunately, while lawmakers argue mightily over their busywork proposals, the private sector has stepped in to help. The Overseas Vote Foundation, funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, offers a Web site that guides military or civilians through the ballot application process. It's as easy as filing an online short-form tax return—all the way up to the point where states require Joe or Jane to use the mail.
Read the full editorial When Ballot Access Goes AWOL on the Chicago Tribune's Web site.