Options: Voting when you're trucking

| 9/20/2002

It would be convenient if on-the-road truckers could vote using the Internet. After all, the IRS found a way for citizens to file Internet tax returns - and other countries use Internet voting.

For example, England this year tested e-voting in local elections involving use of mobile phone text messaging, local digital television and voting from home, libraries and government-run kiosks. Meanwhile in Canada, the New Democratic Party this month announced election.com will conduct the NDP's first online leadership election in January 2003. Internet voting also will be available at NDP's leadership convention for on-site delegates and members.

Election.com provides voter registration and database management, poll site and remote electronic voting, security, tabulation, and custom demographic reporting for political jurisdictions and private sector clients. But Internet voting during national elections in America isn't a reality yet, because problems such as hacking, verifying identities and ensuring privacy await solutions.

And then there's Florida, whose fuzzy-worded punch cards brought us the presidential election confusion of 2000. The state spent $32 million to "solve" the problem by bringing in computers and scanners.

But the machines and under-trained poll workers who ran them made a mess of recent primary voting. The machines didn't boot up and they didn't count thousands of ballots. Florida officials asked the feds to help with a technology fix before November's national elections.

So for now, truckdrivers who must work election day should consider the traditional, paper-based absentee ballot. Or, ask if your state allows citizens to vote ahead of time or ask if there are procedures to let others vote on your behalf.

Oregon has gone to all mail-in balloting. Other states, including: Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington State, allow mail-in voting at one level or another, and may have restrictions on whether mail ballots may be used only for ballot questions, non-partisan races, etc.

Meanwhile, here's some useful information:
Q. How do I obtain an absentee ballot?
A. You may request an absentee ballot by contacting your local county or city election official. Depending on your state, this individual may be the County Clerk, County Auditor, County Registrar or Supervisor of Elections, or the Board of Elections. In most cases the phone number for these offices is listed in the blue government pages of the phone book.
Q. Are there any helpful web sites?
A. The Federal Election Commission has a state-by-state breakdown of various rules, such as the cut-off date for the receipt of absentee ballots, when ballots are counted and who counts them. To find out detailed information about your state, see http://www.fec.gov/pages/faqabsentee.htm.

Another useful site is www.absenteeballot.net. Here you can find information about eligibility requirements for each state for absentee or early voting, up-to-date contact information for your state, county and local election offices, absentee ballot deadlines so you can plan ahead for election day, links to candidates and issues for major elections through state election websites.
-- Dick Larsen, senior editor