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Online Write-In Absentee Ballot Offered for Overseas Voters

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2004 – Deployed or stationed overseas and still waiting for your state absentee ballot to arrive in the mail? There's no need to sweat it out any more.

The online federal write-in absentee ballot gives U.S. citizens overseas who haven't yet received the absentee ballots they applied for the chance to vote in the upcoming elections, according to Polly Brunelli, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program announced the online ballot procedures Oct. 21.

Brunelli said the federal write-in absentee ballot has been used for the past decade. Demand is particularly high this year, she said, thanks for education efforts by the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

The program staff has pre-positioned the ballot forms at many overseas sites "so it would be readily available" to those who need it, Brunelli said. Forms also can be downloaded from the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Web site.

Brunelli emphasized that not everyone overseas can use the ballot. To do so, she said, they must meet three very specific conditions:

* be outside the United States, including APO/FPO addresses;

* have applied for a regular ballot early enough so that the request was received by the appropriate local election official at least 30 days before the election; and

* not have received the regular absentee ballot they requested from their state.

The federal write-in absentee ballot is used to vote for candidates for federal offices, including the president and vice president, U.S. senators and representatives, and delegates or resident commissioners to the Congress, in general elections.

Some states now allow servicemembers and other U.S. citizens overseas to use the ballot in elections other than general elections or for offices other than federal offices. Chapter 3 of the 2004-05 Voting Assistance Guide details specific state or territorial requirements.

When using the federal write-in absentee ballot, voters may electronically fill in the form before it is printed or print it and manually fill in the form. In either case, officials said, the voter must manually sign and date the ballot. Specific instructions for submitting the ballot are outlined on the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site.

Forms can be mailed at no cost to the voter from APO and FPO addresses, as well as other addresses within the U.S. postal system, using postage-paid indicia printed onto the mailing envelope from the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site.

Voters who receive their state ballot after submitting either version of the federal write-in absentee ballot should vote and submit their state ballot any time up to and including Election Day, Nov. 2, officials said. Officials advise them to note on the state ballot envelope that they also submitted a federal write-in absentee ballot.

For more information, contact the DoD Voting Information Center, which can be reached toll-free from 64 countries using the numbers listed on the Federal Voting Assistance Program site. The Voting Information Center provides recorded messages from candidates, as well as other information concerning elections, 24 hours a day.

Servicemembers can also get help from unit voting assistance officers.

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Related Sites:
Federal Voting Assistance Program
Online Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot
Instructions for Returning Ballots to Local Election Officials

Related Articles:
DoD Announces on-Line Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot



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