Military Absentee Voting ‘Primary’ Concern for Federal Voting Assistance Program
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2008 For the Federal Voting Assistance Program, getting deployed troops and their families engaged in the current election season is a primary goal.
Ahead of the November general election, FVAP, which fosters voting participation by uniformed and U.S. citizens abroad, is assisting eligible absentee voters who wish to cast ballots in their states’ primary election.
“It’s important that voters participate in the upcoming primary elections,” said Polli Brunelli, the program's chief. “We have over 20 primaries occurring in February, so now is the time, if you’ve received your ballot, to vote and get it back by the state deadlines.”
During an interview yesterday, Brunelli said registering to vote is a simple process. “Absentee voters fill out a federal postcard application form to request a ballot, send it into their local election official where the voter is legally authorized to vote,” she said. The ballot will be sent to the voter, who then votes on the ballot and sends it back to the local election office.
Paper copies of the application form are available at military installations, embassies and consulates and from organizations of overseas citizens. Electronic forms are posted online at the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site, www.fvap.gov/pubs/onlinefwab.html.
Citizens using this form should vote and submit it immediately using regular mail or, where allowed by state law, by fax or e-mail, to their local election officials. The FVAP’s Integrated Voting Alternative Site at www.fvap.gov/ivas/fvap_state_menu.html shows citizens if fax or e-mail alternatives are permitted in their home state.
Voting assistance officers are stationed at military installations abroad to help FVAP implement its program initiatives. Equipped with state-by-state voting assistance guides, the officers are available to assist servicemembers in navigating the registration process and election procedures, and inform voters of relevant deadlines, Brunelli noted.
FVAP carries out the responsibilities of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which protects the voting rights of active-duty military members, Merchant Marines, eligible family members and citizens residing outside the United States.
Members of the U.S. armed forces traditionally represent an active component of overall voting-age Americans. The total voting participation rate among servicemembers was 79 percent in 2004, compared to the 64 percent rate of the general public, according to figures published by FVAP.
In a memorandum to military secretaries and top commanders sent Nov. 26, 2007, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates underscored the importance of extending voting rights to servicemembers at home and abroad.
“With the calendar of primary elections beginning early and stretching through September, 2008,” Gates said, “it is important that the department and the services be prepared to carry out the voting assistance mission to inform and educate U.S. citizens of the right to vote, foster voting participation, and protect the integrity of the electoral process.
“Voting is a both a right and a responsibility of citizens in our country,” Gates continued. “(Leaders of the armed services must) do everything we can to encourage participation and ensure that our servicemembers and families are able to exercise their right to vote and have that vote counted.”