CHICAGO—Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, Cook County Clerk David Orr, Ald. Jim Balcer, Chicago Board of Elections Comm. Theresa Petrone and military leaders urged the General Assembly to approve legislation to enable military personnel on active duty to vote by fax.
Flanked by the flags of all armed services, Quinn was joined at the press conference by Commander Elvin Carey of the American Legion of Illinois, which endorsed the plan, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Bill LaPrise, and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Roy Dolgos.
“As we observe Veterans’ Day on Tuesday, let’s honor those who are on the front lines now by making it as easy as possible for them to exercise the most fundamental right of a citizen in a democracy, voting for elected officials who will represent you, including a President, U.S. Senator, Congressman and other decision-makers,” Quinn said.
County clerks and other election officials would be authorized under the legislation - supported by Rep. Ralph Capparelli (D-Chicago) - to allow those on active duty to vote by fax, starting with the November, 2004 general election. In addition to allowing military personnel to vote by fax, the legislation - which amends the Illinois Election Code - also enables fax voting by Illinois citizens living or traveling abroad.
“We saw in the 2000 Presidential election how crucial each vote is and how long a mail-in ballot takes to get from overseas back to local election authorities via regular postal service,” said Quinn, noting that he expects bipartisan support for the bill. “Allowing faxed ballots for those on active duty ensures that the vote of every Illinois National Guard member, reservist and military regular is counted.”
Quinn noted a case of an Illinois sailor stationed on an aircraft carrier whose ballot took more than 40 days to reach him, well after election day.
“Imagine being on active duty 6,000 miles away or on an aircraft carrier, and being deprived of your right to vote for Commander-in-Chief? Imagine putting yourself in harm’s way, and then being told you can’t vote for a United States Senator who will shape foreign policy and the defense budget, decisions which could directly affect you,” Quinn said. “Let’s use modern technology to facilitate fundamental freedoms.”
“The men and women on the frontlines have little time to focus on their civic affairs,” said LaPrise, Commanding Officer of Reserve Training at Great Lakes. “Let’s make it as convenient as possible for them to exercise this fundamental right.”
As of this week, 8,952 Illinois National Guard members and reservists had been called up for service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and about half of those are now on active duty. For information about fax voting and other rights of military personnel, see Quinn’s website: www.OperationHomeFront.org
“This legislation lets our citizen soldiers know they won’t have to worry about forfeiting their right to vote when they’re on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Quinn said. “They are already making enough sacrifices.”