State and federal elections officials today announced a new program that will allow Iowa soldiers on duty to vote via e-mail or fax in the November election. The director of the Federal Voter Assistance Program, Polli Brunelli, says program allows soldiers and some other citizens who have problems getting their ballots sent through the mail.

Brunelli says it includes those in combat or remote areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, on ships at sea, overseas Peace Corp workers, clergy, missionaries and others. She says it allows Iowa’s military and overseas citizens “the chance to vote and have their vote counted.”

Brunelli says a handful of other states are doing the same thing. She says Iowa is one of 10 states that allow a voter to get a ballot by e-mail and one of seven states that allow the voted ballot to be returned by e-mail. Brunelli says e-mail is often more available and faster than regular mail. And she says the government has taken steps to prevent fraud.

Brunelli says they have a webguard feature for safety and security with the e-mail and she says they also get the original voted ballot sent in as a check on the process. Brunelli says they’ll use a common program to ensure the ballots are safe. She says the ballots that are sent back by e-mail will be scanned and sent back in the P-D-F format so they cannot be altered.

Brunelli was asked why everyone can’t use the e-mail voting process instead of just those who’re overseas. Brunelli says the overseas group is the most difficult group to reach because of the unreliability of the mail in other countries. She says if the state wants to open up the process to others later on, then that’s an option.

Brunelli says as of today (Thursday) there are some 14-hundred Iowa soldiers overseas who might want to use the program.