Military Absentee Voting

Military Absentee Voting ‘Primary’ Concern
for Federal Voting Assistance Program

The participation of deployed service members and their families is a high priority for the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).

Although the general election won't take place until November, FVAP, which fosters voting participation by uniformed and other U.S. citizens abroad, is assisting eligible absentee voters who wish to cast ballots in their states' primary election.

Some service members may not be aware that military absentee voting will allow them to participate in their state's 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."

Brunelli explained that 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 military absentee voting 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.

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 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 for military absentee voting. Equipped with state-by-state voting assistance guides, the officers are available to assist service members 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 service members 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 military absentee voting rights to service members 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 service members and families are able to exercise their right to vote and have that vote counted."

-- Our thanks to John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service, for this information.

With the War on Terror as a major issue in the 2008 Presidential campaign, we should expect to see a high military voter turnout because of the direct impact on military families that will result from the selection of our next President.

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