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Family Matters Blog: Online Tool Eases Overseas Voting Process

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2010 – When I was in the Air Force and stationed in Turkey, it was evident when it was coming up on the time to vote. Voting awareness booths would spring up throughout the base to educate us on how to vote by absentee ballot.

It seemed complicated then to decipher my state requirements, including where and when I should send in my application. But I was happy to do it anyway. Homesick for the states, voting offered me a valuable connection to my home, as well as an opportunity to make a difference.

I'm glad the Defense Department is working to make this important process easier for our servicemembers and their families living overseas.

My colleague, Lisa Daniel, wrote about a new, online voting assistant that will help military families vote more easily in November's elections in her American Forces Press Service article, "Online Program Helps Military Families Vote Absentee."

On the website, prospective voters identify themselves as a military or family member, or other citizen living outside the U.S., then are asked to answer less than 10 questions, including voting residence and how a ballot should be sent to them, Bob Carey, federal voting assistance program director, told Daniel.

The program automatically determines the voter's election jurisdiction, and the proper questions to ask to meet specific state and local registration and absentee ballot requirements. Once the questions are answered, the voter prints off a form in PDF format, signs it, and submits it by mail, fax or e-mail, depending on state requirements, Carey said.

Americans living overseas – some 6 million voters -- are encouraged to use the voting assistance site to register for absentee ballots this month, Carey said.

"If it's August, they're starting to push it," he told Daniel. "If it's September, they’re going to have problems."

I encourage all of our overseas military families to start this process and have their voices heard, even from a distance.

To comment on this blog, please visit the Family Matters blog.

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