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Chapman seeking electronic voting for Alabama military

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama's chief election official said Thursday she hopes to have a pilot project for electronic voting by Alabama's military overseas by the 2008 presidential election.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman made the comment after a conference call with key leaders of national military voting organizations to seek their help in developing a system to replace mailed absentee ballots for Alabama military and their families overseas.

Chapman talked with top officials from the Overseas Vote Foundation, the Federal Voting Assistance Program of the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and she expressed her support and the governor's for a more up-to-date voting method for Alabamians who are abroad at election time.

Based on Defense Department numbers, Chapman said there are 19,020 uniformed service members from Alabama who are abroad along with 56,315 family members. There are more than 56,000 other citizens overseas who list Alabama as their residence, and that does not count Alabamians working or studying abroad who have no connection to the federal government.

The slowness of Alabama's mailed absentee ballots became an issue last year, when the U.S. Justice Department sued the state to make sure overseas military had time to vote in Alabama's primary runoff. The Legislature had to delay the runoff from June to July so overseas military could get their absentee ballots and return them in time to be counted.

Chapman said Alabama voters overseas — even those in battle zones — can use the Internet to read media Web sites covering state and national politics and to study candidates' campaign Web sites.

"They can be well-informed voters just as much overseas as they are here," she said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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