Overseas Troops, Civilians Can Vote By Absentee Ballot
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2008 With fall general elections approaching, U.S. servicemembers and civilians living overseas should now be thinking about obtaining absentee ballots to vote, the Defense Department’s senior voting official urged today.
“What we want to do is make sure that all of our military members, their family members and all of our U.S. citizens residing outside the United States have an opportunity to vote,” Polli K. Brunelli, director of DoD’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, told Pentagon reporters.
Based at Arlington, Va., the FVAP carries out voting assistance throughout the Defense Department on behalf of the secretary of defense, who is delegated by the president to administer the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986. Brunelli said the law affects more than 6 million potential voters.
Servicemembers and overseas civilians can access information about absentee voting requirements by accessing www.fvap.gov, the newly designed FVAP Web site, Brunelli said.
“Absentee voting can be done by mail. There are also some alternatives that we’ve been working with the states for electronic alternatives for our voters,” she said. “So many states have passed legislation that allows a voter to submit voting materials by fax or e-mail.”
Many states also allow delivery of blank absentee ballots to voters via fax or e-mail, Brunelli noted.
The military departments are performing a significant role, Brunelli said, by instructing servicemembers how to cast absentee ballots. Military voting assistance officers assigned worldwide also can inform servicemembers and family members about absentee voting requirements, she said.
As part of Armed Forces Voters Week, slated Aug. 31 through Sept. 7, military commanders and voting assistance officers worldwide will contact servicemembers and families to inform them that it is a good time to register for an absentee ballot in the state where they are legal voting residents, Brunelli said.
The mail, as well as fax and e-mail, are potential conduits where voters may cast absentee ballots, said Scott Wiedmann, the FVAP’s deputy director.
“We want to give the citizens as many opportunities, as many alternatives as possible, that are allowed by their state law, to communicate with that local election office,” Wiedmann said.
“We want everyone to participate in the voting process: our servicemembers, their family members and all of our overseas citizens,” Brunelli said. “It is voting outreach, to let them know that they are eligible to participate in this democratic process.”
However, the actual act of casting a ballot ultimately is up to the individual, she said.
“So, it is up to the voter to decide what they want to do,” Brunelli said. “We want to make sure they have the information and the means to do so, if they choose to vote.”
Servicemembers and family members with questions on absentee voting requirements should see their unit voting assistance officer or read their state registration and voting procedures in the Voting Assistance Guide on the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Web site.