DOD uses low-tech votes

The Defense Department and the U.S. Postal Service will use a low-tech solution so troops overseas can vote in this year's presidential election. In February, their high-tech solution was canceled because of security concerns.

DOD officials will use the Postal Service's Express Mail overnight service to get paper ballots to and from deployed military personnel. "Simply put, it's a low tech solution," said Paul Vogel, vice president for network operations management at USPS.

Postmasters will ask local election officials to separate military ballots from the rest of the ballots planned for mailing. They will take the ballots to their post offices, put them in Express Mail envelopes and sort them for delivery to Postal Service international delivery centers. The centers are located in New York for warfighters in Europe and Iraq; in Miami for troops in Central and South America; and in San Francisco for those in the Pacific Ocean region, according to DOD and USPS officials speaking June 2 at a media briefing.

Postal Service officials will place the military ballots in sealed, 2-foot-long cardboard trays labeled as troops' ballots and marked high priority, then dispatch them to military or commercial air cargo carriers. Military Postal Service personnel will receive the mail, sort the ballots and deliver them, Vogel said.

Military Postal Service and USPS employees will repeat the 10-step process after warfighters vote. The two organizations expect to handle 1.3 million ballots for this fall's election and expect a two-week turnaround if troops complete them by mid-October -in time for the November election, said Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

In January, computer security advocates questioned the viability of the DOD's Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) system. They concluded SERVE's use of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system and the Internet makes it vulnerable to hacking and the alteration of results.

On Jan. 30, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz issued a memorandum stopping the use of SERVE for the election. On May 11, senators recommended in their version of the fiscal 2005 Defense Authorization Act that Congress amend the 2002 Defense Authorization Act to delay an electronic voting demonstration project until November 2006.

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