There is some very interesting news today out of the U.S. government organization, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which provides voting assistance to military and overseas voters. FVAP announced their intent to embark on a path to the creation of software tools to help voters abroad with obtaining ballots, specifically:

FVAP Director Bob Carey recently announced a need for the development of more online applications for Uniformed Services and overseas civilian voters. Specifically, FVAP will submit a request for quotes on how vendors could develop two key products: a tool to guide the voter through the UOCAVA registration and absentee ballot request process and another tool to guide them through receiving, marking, printing and sending an absentee ballot.

I’ve already heard from folks who see some Internet voting lurking there, but I see a great opportunity to do something much more feasible, and quite rapidly: use the Internet to distribute blank ballots to voters abroad. For those who wish more info on that approach and its relation to Internet voting, we have a pretty good explanation on our wiki: Optimizing the Impact of the Internet to Assist Overseas and Military Voters. It’s a first draft on some larger tech/policy issues, but might provide some useful background. (Feedback welcome!)

But most interesting to me is that the announcement is about steps toward the Federal government paying some bidder to build some technology that helps voters abroad to vote. Even if the tools are for use in a limited pilot, that’s some serious activity at the Federal level, more than has been typical so far. It’s especially promising because the technology required for these tools is actually pretty familar — as the wiki article explains, some of it has already been used by many people in Google search, courtesy of Google’s and Pew‘s VIP project. Much of the rest consists of data management tools that we’re already working in the TTV Project. It’s a rare day when I feel aligned with both Google and the U.S. Federal Government!

— EJS