DOD Overseas Voting Assistance ‘Never Better,’ Official Says
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2012 With less than eight weeks remaining before election day, American service members and other citizens overseas have more tools than ever available to help them register and vote, the acting director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program told Congress today.
Pamela S. Mitchell told the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee that her staff is committed to promoting awareness of upcoming elections and removing any barriers between Americans abroad and their right to cast a ballot.
“We provide voting assistance every day, and we’ve never done it better,” Mitchell said. “Voters seeking assistance will find a myriad of resources available, including a professional call center, well-trained voting assistance officers, and an information-rich Web portal at fvap.gov.”
The program offers assistance to service members and their relatives who are eligible to vote, as well as other Americans who are overseas for work, school or other reasons, she said.
The 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, known as the MOVE Act, established various programs to help military people, their families and other overseas citizen voters register and vote. The act required the military services to have a voting assistance office on every installation worldwide, except for those in war zones.
Mitchell said those offices are open, and the voting assistance program offers a range of training tools for the installation office staffs and for unit voting assistance officers. She noted the program also employs online and email tools to help overseas military members navigate the absentee voting process.
“We’re conducting a comprehensive communications and outreach campaign, and we established a call center that provides support by phone, by email and by online chat. The services are also actively engaged to increase awareness of the election and [of] service members’ right to vote,” she said.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program website has logged more than 8 million visits since November, Mitchell said, and the program’s staff members have dispatched 1.4 million emails five separate times since January, with at least two more mass emails scheduled to go out before the November election.
“As of 30 June, the services reported that their installation and unit voting assistance offices helped over 550,000 [people],” she noted.
The program’s staff works continuously to increase awareness among potential overseas voters, she said.
“I spent over 25 years in uniform, and I wish I’d had access to the tools that are out there today,” Mitchell said. “However, even if only one absentee service member or overseas citizen has a problem, we believe it is one too many – and there is no question that we still have work to do.”