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Election.com takes absentee voters online

The company that provided online balloting services for Arizona's Democratic primary is targeting those who are unable to make it to a ballot box on election day.

Online voting service Election.com wants to go global.

The privately held company that provided online balloting services for Arizona's Democratic primary in March has expanded its services for U.S. absentee voters across the globe, targeting students, military personnel and others who are unable to make it to a ballot box on election day.

While the service allows people to register to vote from their offices or homes in the United States or overseas, the process still requires pen and paper.

"It's not an entirely electronic process. You still have to sign a form," said Mark Strama, Election.com's vice president of government affairs. "Ultimately, your voter registration form still gets sent in on paper because it requires your physical signature."

Online voting has been the topic of much discussion and has been met with little regulation thus far. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) said it plans to issue voluntary voting system standards to the states sometime in the next year. It will address security and access issues surrounding remote, at-home and Internet voting, as well as voting within government controlled polling sites, according to Penelope Bonsall, the FEC's director of election administration.

No standards are planned yet for voter registration.

Under Election.com's absentee ballot scheme, potential voters can fill out a form online, then print and sign the form or have Election.com mail them a copy to sign, depending on the requirements of their home states.

In addition to providing registration services on its Web site, the company lets other sites offer the applications on their own Web pages. MilitaryMoves.com, MilitaryHub.com and Rock the Vote are among the organizations attempting to attract new voters.

"It's effortless?compared to when we used to have to go door-to-door to register voters," Strama said. "This doesn't eliminate the need for some of the grassroots registering voter stuff, but it sure is a lot easier and a lot more effective."

Election.com has been offering domestic voter registration services since March, following its acquisition of NewVoter.com. It also provides public and private sector election services.

The company's efforts in online balloting have not been without controversy.

In the Arizona primary, a record number of people voted when the company and the Democratic Party teamed to allow participants to cast their ballots from any place they could plug in computers. But computer glitches and concerns about privacy dampened the success.

In addition, Justice Department officials and several private organizations have expressed concerns that the push for Net voting would disenfranchise poor and minority groups that don't have equal access to computers. Arlington, Va.-based Voting Integrity Project sued to block online balloting in the Arizona Democratic primary, but a federal judge denied the petition.

Strama said the voter registration services have not suffered technical problems, and no vulnerabilities of the encrypted forms are known to have occurred.

While the company continues to offer online election services, Strama said it is aware that a shift to widespread voting on the Web will take time.

"There's going to be incremental adoption of Internet voting," he said. "In the meantime?Election.com is facilitating access to process on the Internet at all levels, even to jurisdictions that aren't prepared to take the step to Internet voting yet."