Votes Count During Off-Year Elections
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 1997 Millions of Americans last year elected the president and vice president of the United States and members of the 105th Congress, but voting responsibilities do not end there. Elections also occur at the village, town, city, county and state levels, and happen every year.
Federal Voting Assistance Program officials urge service members to learn their local issues and vote in 1997 off-year elections.
This year, for instance, Virginians will vote for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and members of the House of Delegates. In New Jersey, residents will vote for governor and seats in the state senate and general assembly. Mayoral elections are slated this year for some of the country's largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cleveland and Minneapolis.
However, most elections this year will select county executives and sheriffs, school board members, village clerks and town representatives.
The local voting process is as important as the federal elections, said Federal Voting Assistance Program director Phyllis Taylor. "These elections have a direct impact on the daily life of service members and their families back home," she said.
Taylor said local elections decide a variety of issues. Elections determine how schools educate youth. Voters approve budgets for road improvements, construction projects, social programs and curfews. It's these issues, she said, that affect family and friends back home, as well as service members returning from their military duties.
To learn about the issues affecting service members and their hometowns, she encourages use of DoD's Voting Information Center. Unlike federal elections where issues and candidate positions receive much publicity, Taylor said, thousands of local issues don't get visibility outside a local voting district.
By calling the Voting Information Center hot line at (703) 693-6500 or DSN 223-6500, service members interested in local issues can leave messages with their state's secretary of state. Those messages then go to local election officials, who can answer specific questions and send election information.
Knowing the issues is important, but, Taylor added, knowing issues will not help if service members do not vote. That's why, she said, it's important to apply for an absentee ballot by submitting a completed Federal Post Card Application (SF 76).
Although some states require separate applications for each election, others need only one request per calendar year. In addition, certain states have specific voting requirements. Therefore, it's important that service members check with their unit voting assistance officers or the 1996-97 Voting Assistance Guide for state procedures.
Primary General Election
*New Jersey June 3 Nov. 4
**Virginia June 10 Nov. 4
Major Mayoral Elections
Boston Sept. 23 Nov. 4
Buffalo, N.Y. Sept. 2 Nov. 4
Charlotte, N.C. Sept. 23 Nov. 4
Cincinnati Nov. 4
Cleveland Sept. 30 Nov. 4
Columbus, Ohio May 6 Nov. 4
Houston Nov. 4
Los Angeles Apr. 8 June 3
Miami Nov. 4 Nov. 13
Minneapolis Sept. 9 Nov. 4
New York Sept. 9 Nov. 4
Oklahoma City Mar. 18 Apr. 1
Omaha, Neb. Apr. 1 May 13
Pittsburgh May 20 Nov. 4
San Antonio May 3
Seattle Sept. 16 Nov. 4
Toledo, Ohio Sept. 9 Nov. 4
Tucson, Ariz. Sept. 16 Nov. 4
* Also electing members to the New Jersey State Senate and General Assembly.
** Also electing lieutenant governor, attorney general and members to the Virginia House of Delegates.