Defense Department Program Informs Overseas Voters
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 18, 2008 A Defense Department program is working to ensure overseas government employees, civilian contractors, servicemembers and their spouses have all the information they need to make their vote count.
Scott Wiedmann, deputy director and 15-year employee of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, said people deployed to combat or stationed overseas have numerous sources for registration and balloting information.
Every U.S. military installation and individual unit, as well as U.S. embassies, has voting assistance officers to help servicemembers and civilians. Information can also be found on the program’s Web site at www.fvap.gov.
This year is particularly important because of the U.S. presidential election approaching in November, Wiedmann noted. “Every vote counts, and a vote in the U.S. is a very powerful vote, so people need to take advantage of it,” he said. “Not to diminish the importance of any other country, but certainly, a vote for the U.S. president will have its effect on many issues. Policy decisions made by the U.S. government do have an effect on many other countries around the world.”
Military members, especially, should take advantage of their vote, he said. “Their daily lives, their income, their living conditions and their retirement benefits are decided by Congress. So, they should certainly have a choice in who’s representing them,” he added.
Wiedmann encouraged people turning in absentee ballots to act as early as possible to ensure enough time for their ballots and registration requests to process. The earlier one starts the process, the more time election officials have to decide whether the applicant meets the jurisdiction requirements to vote, he explained. Early application allows enough time for such issues to be resolved, he added.
“As long as people get their ballot requests in at least 30 days before the election, no state will be too late,” Wiedmann said. “Thirty days is the maximum timeline for registration and ballot requests.”
The primary procedure for all 55 U.S. states and territories is to process registrations and ballots by mail, but many states are working with the Defense Department and allowing servicemembers and overseas voters to request by e-mail and fax, he said.
If voters don’t receive their ballots in a timely manner, they can request backup ballots on the program’s Web site as well as at every military installation and U.S. embassies worldwide, he added.