Improving process for soldier voting key

This November as we celebrate Veterans Day and memorialize the untold sacrifices of Alabama&8217;s military members, we should commit to ensuring that every one of them has the ability to cast their vote at home, while serving abroad.

This will be more important than ever with Alabama having our first early presidential primary on February 5, 2008.

In recent years, with approximately two weeks&8217; delay for receiving mail in the Middle East and complex regulations governing absentee voting, red tape and outdated delivery methods have disenfranchised tens of thousands of service members deployed overseas.

Alabama has the highest per capita number of National Guard members deployed since 9/11 and one of the greatest populations of men and women serving in all branches of the military.

It is embarrassing to say that less than 48 percent of ballots requested by members of our military in the 2006 mid-term elections were counted.

With this year&8217;s presidential primary process beginning at the end of the holiday season, our troops will face even greater obstacles.

Shorter timetables will decrease the amount of time for them to register and cast their votes.

Their requests to vote by absentee ballot and their actual votes will also be threatened by the huge volume of mail being processed during the holiday season.

The good news is that Alabama is the first of only three states to ensure all of our military serving overseas will be able to register to vote and update their registration records each time they change locations.

This is the first step in ensuring that they will be able to vote from overseas in the future.

A new Web site, http://www.overseasvotefoundation.org developed by the Overseas Vote Foundation (OVF), with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts&8217; Make Voting Work initiative, offers much needed assistance.

The site guides overseas voters through state requirements, helping to complete and automatically check all information to ensure requests are not disqualified based on technicalities.

Throughout the years our nation has asked a tremendous amount of sacrifice from members of our military.

They have responded with great courage in defense of our democracy and it is up to us to make sure that they are not denied a voice in the very democracy they defend.

Beth Chapman is a native of Shelby County and is Alabama&8217;s Secretary of State