Missourians in combat zones can vote by fax

Friday, June 18, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missourians deployed in combat zones overseas won't have to pull a crank or punch a paper hole this election season. They will have a new way to cast their votes: the fax machine.

Secretary of State Matt Blunt issued an order Thursday that requires local election authorities to accept absentee ballots faxed in from service men and women who are deployed in combat, hostile fire or imminent danger areas, as designated by the Department of Defense.

The order -- which applies only to elections in August and November -- was made possible by a 2002 change to state election law, which allows the secretary of state to designate various people who may fax in absentee ballots.

Blunt suggested that military personnel fax their ballots multiple times just in case there are technical problems on either end of the line.

"If they're unable to get through, they could send it to the secretary of state's office, and we'll get it to the proper election authority," Blunt said in an interview.

The military personnel eligible to send ballots by fax are in 59 zones around the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq. Service members in those areas may still send ballots by mail. All other absentee voters must send ballots by mail. Election authorities have to receive ballots by 7 p.m. on the day of the election.

Lt. Jamie Melchert, a spokes-man for the Missouri National Guard, said Blunt's announcement was "wonderful news for our soldiers."

Blunt is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served as an engineering officer on the frigate USS Jack Williams. He later spent two years as a navigator and administrative officer on the destroyer USS Peterson.

Now a member of the Naval Reserve, Blunt was called to active duty for several months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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