Senators Want Military to Overhaul Voting Process

Twelve senators are asking Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to make it easier for troops abroad to vote, saying the current system is outdated.

Seven Republicans and five Democrats wrote to Rumsfeld this month, asking the department to create a new voting system that would allow members of the military to easily "request, receive, download and print" absentee ballots regardless of their location.

Under the current system, members of the military must contact local officials by regular mail and request a ballot, which is then mailed to them. The voter then must fill out the ballot by hand and send it back to his or her state, again by regular mail.

"Military absentee voting is still conducted in the same way it was conducted during World War II and the Korean War," the senators wrote.

A Pentagon spokeswoman would not comment on the letter, saying it is Pentagon policy not to comment on correspondence between the secretary and members of Congress.

Samuel Wright of the National Defense Committee, a group that advocates for electing more veterans to Congress, said he has counted 7,838 different state and local election offices that administer federal elections and communicate with troops overseas.

Wright said it would be ideal if military abroad could receive ballots by e-mail, fill them out and send them to their local election offices by regular mail.

"The military voter is a moving target," said Wright. "The current system requires that they have to find the voter."

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., prepared the letter and is planning legislation that would make the process easier. He said Tuesday the current process is unacceptable.

Also signing the letter were Republicans Christopher Bond of Missouri, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Wayne Allard of Colorado. Democrats signing the letter were Max Baucus of Montana, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii.