BY: Melanie Torre
TYLER, TX (KLTV) –
Newly-passed legislation will make voting easier for military men and women in combat zones. The bill, which has already been signed by Governor Rick Perry, could be paving the way for the entire country when it comes to casting ballots while on duty.
East Texas Representative Matt Schaefer not only helped author the bill, but he experienced voting problems firsthand while serving in Afghanistan.
“There are a lot of reasons why voting by mail when you’re in a combat zone is difficult,” says Schaefer.
During the 2010 election, before Representative Schaefer was a representative, he was in western Afghanistan serving in the Navy.
“The problem you had at the time was that they could email you a ballot but they couldn’t send you an envelope to mail it back in,” he says.
In 2010, Schaefer was serving as his unit’s voting officer. He says voting from a remote military base on the Iranian border was a hassle because mail was unreliable and months behind, but now there’s a solution in House Bill 1129.
“The election office will be able to email them the ballot. They’ll have access to printers. That’s the one thing they’ll have to have, but having printers at a base like that is not a big deal. They’ll be able to print out their ballot, fill it out, sign it and then scan it back in and use their secure military email account to send their ballot back to the states and have it be counted,” Schaefer explains.
A chip on every military ID card ensures the voting process is secure. When Schaefer showed his own ID to fellow legislators in Austin, it helped get the bill passed.
“I’m a citizen legislator. I had experience in the military. This is a problem we had, and to be able to go down to Austin and explain to my fellow members that this is something that we can do better for people in the military… it was my honor and my privilege to be able to do that and get it passed,” Schaefer says.
The Secretary of State’s office is expected to give this new military voting system a trial run in Bexar county in upcoming elections. If that is successful, it could be expanded to the rest of the state by 2015.