Officials Committed to Helping Military Members Vote
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2004 Defense officials are committed to ensuring military members have the ability to vote from anywhere in the world, DoD's top personnel officer said.
"We're making a decided effort to make sure everyone gets the chance to vote," said David S. C. Chu, undersecretary for personnel and readiness, in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Voting assistance officers are available on military installations and in units to assist servicemembers in finding information for their home states and districts. These officers can help them register to vote and request absentee ballots.
The U.S. Postal Service has committed to sending voting materials to and from military members overseas via express mail, Chu said. "This year the post office is going to expedite the movement of absentee ballots to help us be sure they get out there in time and to get back and get counted," he said.
DoD has designated two specific weeks to raise awareness of issues facing military voters specifically and, more generally, everyone who must vote by absentee ballot. The week-plus timeframe Sept. 3-11, which includes Labor Day, has been designated Armed Forces Voters Week. Columbus Day week, Oct. 11-15, will be Absentee Voting Week.
A Defense Department spokesman explained voting assistance officers will redouble their efforts to get information to potential voters during these weeks. Commanders and supervisors will also highlight the importance of voting and options available to troops.
"We want to bring to light the availability of services provided to assist military members and their family members," the spokesman said.
Chu said a good source of information is the Web site of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The site includes links to absentee voting rules for all states and jurisdictions.
From this site, potential voters can fill out and submit an on-line version of the Federal Post Card Application, which allows individuals to register to vote or request an absentee ballot from nearly all U.S. jurisdictions.
Finally, Chu said, people should be aware they can use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote in congressional and presidential elections if they don't receive their absentee ballots in time. Information on using this form is also available on the FVAP Web site.
"You can (use this form) if you're a registered voter," Chu said. "And that is one of your last-ditch options."