A non-partisan think tank has been selected by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission as the winner of the $500,000 Military Heroes Initiative grant competition.
According to a statement from the commission, the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will join with the Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation and Operation BRAVO Foundation to evaluate ways to improve voting for military personnel with disabilities.
Forsyth County’s former elections director, Gary J. Smith, is director of BRAVO, which stands for Bring Remote Access to Voters Overseas.
Smith said the military heroes project deals with those who have been injured by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“There’s been a lot of people who have had these injuries who are sitting now in military hospitals or in VA hospitals and they’re trying to bring them back into the private sector,” Smith said.
Commission Chair Donetta Davidson said the grant will “provide valuable insight into the voting experience for injured military members.”
“We’ll learn more about the complications these injured service men and women are experiencing as they exercise their right to vote,” she said.
Davidson noted that the recommendations from the research will also benefit non-military voters with disabilities nationwide.
Added Smith: “The long-term or the next step is going to be to be able to look at applying some of this research to people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
The project will take about two years, Smith said, and he hopes that some of the research will be conducted at military hospitals in Georgia.
Smith, who led the local elections board for eight years, said he is excited and humbled to participate in the project.
“It’s a great thing for me at this time of my life to be able to do a project that I think is without a doubt one of the best things you can be involved in,” he said.
“It’s not only worthwhile but it’s going to impact a lot of people with the work that we come out of this with.”