The US Department of Defense (DoD) is giving states funds to support the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The act builds on existing voting rights for individuals in the military or American citizens living abroad, by ensuring that they are still allowed to vote in their local US elections and have those votes counted. Florida and Virginia were the first states to get DoD money associated with the MOVE Act and they’ve partnered with Microsoft to give voters abroad online access to their ballots.
CivSource spoke with Kim Nelson, executive director for e-government at Microsoft, about LiveBallot an application that is part of the company’s DemocracyLive product which will provide online ballot access for residents of Florida and Virginia. The solution is already in place and since voting began for the Republican primary in December, over 1,200 Florida voters from 40 countries have accessed their ballot using LiveBallot, through an online web portal.
“Florida and Virginia submitted their applications on the basis of using LiveBallot,” Nelson explains. California was also awarded funds from DoD to use LiveBallot and will be opening their portal up for voting ahead of their primary in June.
The MOVE Act requires states to transmit validly-requested absentee ballots to overseas voters no later than 45 days before a federal election, when the request has been received by that date, except where the state has been granted an undue hardship waiver approved by the Department of Defense for that election.
LiveBallot gives states the ability to meet the requirements of the MOVE Act, by allowing citizens to access the portal, view and print their ballots. In the past, many overseas voters have not received an absentee ballot in time for it to be voted, returned, and counted. With LiveBallot, voters use unique identifying information to access their voter-specific ballot. Upon return, the signature on the ballot is matched with voter registration records to verify the voter’s identity.
“It’s important to note that LiveBallot only allows voters to view and print their ballots. This is not online voting,” Nelson explains. “Each state has their own requirements for how ballots may be returned and residents are made aware of that but it is important not to confuse this as an online voting mechanism.”
California, Florida and Virginia election officials received Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP) funding guaranteed by the MOVE Act to purchase the LiveBallot technology.