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Bexar County Military Voters To Test Email Balloting System

Eileen Pace

Bexar County has been selected by the state legislature to test a pilot program for email voting. For the first time next year, ballots will be sent and returned by email from 200-300 military members.

Voters eligible for the program will be able to cast ballots by email for the first time in the 2014 primary elections.

For the past six years, Bexar County has been emailing ballots to active duty military, but the ballots had to be returned to Bexar County in a sealed envelope by snail mail. This year, the legislature passed House Bill 1129, which allows the ballots to be returned by email.

County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said the pilot program will be tested only with military members who are in a hostile fire zone.

"Which would mean our folks in Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever. We get a list every year from the military on what they consider hostile fire," she said.

The program grew from 59 voters the first year, when only .mil email addresses were permitted to get the ballots, to 500 in the second year for all email addresses. Eventually, military families also were allowed to receive ballots by email and last year the program had grown to over 5,000.

Callanan said although email voting is easy because of technology, its use should be tested in baby steps.

"Everyone knows and we appreciate its value, and it’s why we’re here, to have one vote for everyone to have that secret ballot. This takes the secrecy away because this now is going to have one of my staff or myself take that ballot, so we will know who it’s coming from. And we’ll actually see the votes," she said.

A meeting is scheduled next week with Callanan, the Texas Secretary of State and other Bexar County officials to plan the finer points of the program.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.