Voting is one of the fundamental rights of US citizens. However, this does not mean that voting is always simple, especially for service members and their families who often find themselves moving around the world. The good news is that these individuals can still choose to exercise their right to vote no matter where they find themselves.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program, a politically unaffiliated organization, can assist soldiers and their families by informing them of upcoming elections, the election process, and important voting dates for federal, state, primary, or national elections. FVAP can also help soldiers register to vote.
FVAP was originally designed to assist deployed soldiers. However, the program has changed its focus in recent years from only absentee voting to cover a wider range of election-related activities.
For soldiers and families interested in voting using absentee ballot, FVAP can be a primary source of information about the process. Their website also provides voting registration requirements for each state in the United States.
“Our government is built on the foundation of democracy,” said Gyles E. Gregory III, who directs the voting assistance program at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. “Everyone’s vote matters, so if you choose not to vote in an election, you are essentially nullifying your vote on how this country is governed and how your state is run. It is important for soldiers to understand that if they want to have a say in what is going on in the state and the federal government, they have to vote.” .
Citizens interested in absentee voting can register to vote and request a ballot by filling out an application for a federal postcard and sending it to their electoral office. Local election offices need soldiers and families an accurate polling residence address to determine which offices and candidates are eligible to vote for – and to send you the right ballot for their polling district. Once eligibility is determined, electoral offices send absentee ballots at least 45 days before the federal election.
Voters must allow plenty of time to request, receive, and return a ballot and must submit a new FPCA each year or as they move in. Voters should also check their state’s absentee voting deadlines and information regularly. Following all instructions is critical to making sure the votes are counted. Service members and their spouses who requested a regular ballot form from the local election office, but did not receive that ballot in time, may also use the Federal Written Absentee Ballot, which is a backup ballot that can be used in the general ballot for elections to federal office.
Gregory says technology has become a powerful tool to make voting easier. Soldiers and their families can now easily check and verify key voting dates and requirements just by searching online.
On the FVAP website, voters can find contact points for all the different polling stations based on the district in which they are voting. Contacts at the local level are often the best resource for finding specific information about local polling district laws and requirements.
Battalions, battalions, and corporations must appoint Voting Assistance Unit Coordinators who personally coordinate the voting and assistance resources throughout the unit.
“Voting should be something soldiers and their families can be proud of and understand as their opportunity to make sure their voices are heard at the local, state and federal levels,” Gregory said.
For more information, go to https://www.fvap.gov