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Voting measure awaits governor's signature
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Forsyth County News

Georgia residents living, working or serving overseas could have a quicker say in their picks for the 2012 election.

If Gov. Sonny Perdue signs House Bill 665, overseas voters will participate in a pilot program that allows them to vote electronically, instead of mailing paper ballots.

The bill, authored by District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, unanimously passed the Senate on Monday and moved to the governor’s desk. It passed the House by a 165-1 vote in February.

“It’s a very common-sense bill,” Hamilton said. “One of the main reasons is to support our men and women serving overseas.

“We just simply want to give them the opportunity to vote.”

Currently, an overseas voter must mail a request for an absentee ballot.

The ballot is typically sent about a month in advance, and must be postmarked by election day to count.

If the bill is signed into law, the next step will be for the secretary of state to develop a pilot program to simplify the process of filling out an absentee ballot.

This includes deciding on the best electronic ballot method, as well as finding funding.

Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming, said a handful of other states are trying similar measures.

Multiple organizations, including Operation Bravo, the Ford Foundation and Pew Center have shown interest in helping on the financial end.

“It will be the 2012 election before it’s utilized, so that gives them a couple of years to secure funding,” Hamilton said.

The pilot program expires shortly after the election, at which point the secretary of state must submit a report detailing results from the program.

“My hope and intention would be that they submit the report early enough in the legislative session that we would be able to go ahead and make the process and procedure permanent,” Hamilton said.