DOD relents on overseas voting site

Letter to Rumsfeld (PDF)

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Pentagon officials have backed off of their decision to block access to a Web site providing voting information for Americans living overseas.

Military officials had previously decided to block access to the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site for Internet service providers in 25 countries, saying the move was necessary to protect the site from hackers. But the move was protested by the public and three Congressional Democrats. Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), ranking minority member of the Government Reform Committee, Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and William Lacy Clay (Mo.), wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling for an immediate reversal of the decision to block the site.

DOD officials announced the decision Sept. 22. According to a statement, officials decided to increase the number of ISPs able to access the site, in response to concerns from citizens. Officials are not guaranteeing 100 percent access.

"The department has taken prompt action to address the concerns of some U.S. citizens overseas regarding the protective measures on DOD networks that were limiting some internet access," wrote Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in a statement. "It is always a challenge to balance access with the required security on department of defense systems."

Maloney questioned Rumsfeld's commitment to voters overseas. "First, they didn't print enough absentee ballot applications," she said. "Then, they planned to use overseas Americans as guinea pigs for internet voting, and now this. American citizens deserve to be treated as American citizens, no matter if they live in Kansas or are serving their country overseas."

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