U.S. Troops in Afghan Theater Face Ballot Deadline
By Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2004 As coalition forces help Afghanistan prepare for its presidential election in October, U.S. servicemembers in that country aren't losing sight of their own upcoming elections.
Facing them is the fast-approaching deadline for citizens serving overseas to mail absentee ballots for U.S. general elections Nov. 2.
All registered voters assigned in Afghanistan should receive their absentee ballots for the general elections by the first week of October. Servicemembers who don't receive a ballot by that time should see their voting assistance officer for a federal write-in ballot.
"Our deadline to mail ballots back to the (United States) for the election is Oct. 11," said Maj. Bryan Carter, Combined Joint Task Force 76 senior voting- assistance officer. This leaves approximately a 20-day window for the ballots to make it to the United States in time for the election.
However, those who want their vote counted shouldn't wait until the last minute to mail in their ballots. The longer they wait to mail their ballot, the greater the risk that it won't get there on time, said Carter.
"The important thing is that people ensure they are mailing the ballots in time to meet the deadline for voting," he said.
This election year a lot of attention is focused on absentee voters getting their paperwork in on time and participating in the elections. "A big concern right now is that there are so many servicemembers deployed right now," he said. "We want to make sure everyone knows that individuals do count. And their votes will be counted for their future.
"Our elections aren't just about people," Carter said. "They're about taxes, bonds, referendums, schools, cities and counties. We're allowing the people we elect to work and perform different functions. And by voting, we get to approve or disapprove many of these functions."
The process of voting by absentee ballot allows service-members and civilians serving in Afghanistan and other overseas locations to exercise their involvement in the government.
"Voting is just one of the rights we're here for," said Carter. "Voting is how our democracy works. Really, it's how we speak to our government."
To make the democracy work, however, personnel serving in the Afghan area of operations need to ensure they take the time to vote. "This is the last big piece of the voting process," said Carter. "This is a culminating event. You're putting pen to paper and exercising your right to vote."
(Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl is a member of the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)