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Special Ballot Helps Overseas Members Vote

By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 1996 – Overseas voters not receiving their regular state absentee ballots in time may still cast their votes for federal office candidates.

Using the Federal Writein Absentee Ballot, military voters, their eligible family members and DoD employees can still vote in federal elections.

Designed in 1988, the writein absentee ballot (SF186) allows voters to cast ballots in general elections. On this "blank ballot," a voter may write either the candidate's name or the political party's name.

Normally the writein ballot includes only federal offices. It does not include all state and local offices that a regular state absentee ballot includes.

Absentee writein ballots are available through military voting assistance offices worldwide. Phyllis Taylor, Federal Voting Assistance Program director, said there are several requirements in using the form.

Usually, writein absentee ballot voters must have a foreign or APO/FPO mailing address. Virginia is the lone exception. For voting purposes, Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are inside the United States. Virginia residents on military or merchant marine duty may use the ballot if normal duty is outside their city or county residence. Military spouses and eligible family members also qualify.

Voters may not use the writein ballot if they failed to file for a regular absentee ballot from their state elections board.

"The Federal Writein Absentee Ballot is designed as backup for the regular state absentee ballot," said Taylor. "It is not a replacement for the regular state ballot and is valid only when the voter requests the regular absentee ballot in a timely manner."

Voters must meet state registration procedures, and requests must arrive at least 30 days before the election. In 1996, the citizen's request needs to arrive before Sunday, Oct. 6.

Because most local election offices are closed on weekends, Taylor advised voters to get ballot requests to local election offices by Friday, Oct. 4.

In Montana, however, voters unable to meet state deadlines may register and vote by completing both the Federal Post Card Application (SF76) and the writein ballot. Voters must then send both forms to their local county administrators. The package must arrive by noon Nov. 5.

Taylor encouraged voters who receive the regular state ballot after submitting the writein ballot to complete the ballot and send it in. "Of course, only one ballot will be counted in this case," said Taylor. "Local election officials are instructed to hold the writein ballots until the state deadline for counting."

She said if the regular absentee ballot arrives by deadline, then that one is counted and the writein ballot is not.

For more information on the writein ballot and other voting questions, contact your installation or unit voting assistance officer.

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