Modernized Voting Assistance Program Simplifies Process
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2011 Significant improvements have taken place over the last five years in making military people more aware of the Federal Voting Assistance Program and the resources it makes available, the program’s director said.
In a recent interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Bob Carey said military voter participation rates in the program went up 21 percent over that period, and military voter awareness of the voting assistance resources available to them show increases ranging from 50 to 85 percent.
The program saw a 25 percent increase in the number of ballots received and returned by military voters, he added.
Carey attributed the program’s recent success to a transition toward more convenient, user-friendly opportunities for voters.
“We’ve focused our program on trying to get away from traditional paper-based forms and hierarchical notification of people [about] voter assistance,” he said, as program officials have relied more on online and print advertising and emails to the entire military to get the word out.
“We’re also providing a number of online tools so they can automatically, seamlessly, intuitively complete their forms without having to page through hundreds of pages of instructions,” Carey said. The new process is “hassle-free” and can be completed in five to 10 minutes, he added.
Also, program officials convinced 31 states to put their ballots online for military voters in the 2010 election and will be doing the same for the 2012 election, he said.
Another success for the program has been a 33 percent increase in voting by 18- to 24-year-olds. The youngest voters historically vote the least, and still have a lower rate of voting than the rest of the population, Carey said.
“I think it’s largely because they’re first-time voters, they’re more likely to be deployed, and they’re less likely to have access to the types of resources that more senior and older personnel probably do,” he explained.
A social media presence also has helped in spreading the word about voting, Carey said. “We have about 4,500 friends on Facebook,” he noted, “and you can find us [there] at Federal Voting Assistance Program.”
The program’s resources also are available through Twitter -- @FVAP -- and through its website, http://www.FVAP.gov, he said.
A Federal Voting Assistance Program kickoff event to prepare for the 2012 election is slated to take place in conjunction with the Nov. 11 “Carrier Classic” basketball game between the University of North Carolina and Michigan State University aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego.
“We really want to impress upon people that if they want to participate in the presidential preference primaries, they need to be getting their absentee ballot applications in in November,” Carey said. “Some of these presidential preference primaries are going to be starting in January, and the ballots are going to be sent out in December, so those local elections officials need to know that you want a ballot in November.”
Carey stressed the need for voters to get their absentee ballot applications submitted as the program seeks continued success.
“Overall, we’re really happy,” he said. “We’re seeing more voters being able to get their ballots, more voters being able to return their ballots, and we’re seeing -- most importantly, from our agency’s perspective -- more voters knowing how to get the assistance they need to be able to successfully vote.”