Absentee voting easy, important for Soldiers, Families
July 11, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 11, 2014) -- There are many myths and untruths that surround absentee voting, which sometimes discourage Soldiers and their Families from participating in an important aspect of American democracy, but one Fort Rucker official's mission is to make sure everyone gets the information they need to exercise their right to vote while away from home.
"Asking why Soldiers should make sure they are registered to vote is like asking why Soldiers and their Families want their opinions and voices heard," said Keith Wilbur, installation voting assistance officer. "It's a no brainer."
The Federal Voting Assistance Program is a program in the Department of Defense that helps ensure military members and their Families are aware of their right to vote, and have the tools and resources to do that, according to Matt Boehmer, director of the FVAP, in an interview with American Forces Press Service.
Soldiers and their Families, said Wilbur, are often derailed when it comes to registering for an absentee ballot because popular media around voting times often spread the untruths, including absentee votes not counting, that military spouses and dependents cannot use military absentee voting forms and even that absentee ballots are not kept secret.
"Absentee ballots submitted in accordance with state laws are counted for every election," he said. "All ballots are counted in the final totals for every election, local or national, and every single vote counts the same."
Even deployed Soldiers are allowed to vote.
"If Soldiers are registered to vote while deployed and they do not get their state ballot in time to vote (45 days prior to mid-term elections) from their location, they can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot found at FVAP.gov," he continued. "They just have to turn it in 30 days before the scheduled election."
People can get the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot online if deployed or from Wilbur if they did not receive their absentee ballot in time for elections.
"Soldiers can have a local impact back home, wherever that might be -- Maine, California, Texas -- it does not matter. But they do need to register early to ensure receipt of voting materials," added Wilbur. "If they want to have a say-so in the dealings and government back home, then they can, if they so choose."
Through the FVAP, many states and local municipalities are acknowledging Soldier and Family member registrations, said Wilbur.
"Their ballots will be accepted. If they are a registered absentee voter, they will not only send federal elections, but local elections, as well, even run-offs and primaries," he continued.
To register as an absentee voter, Soldiers and Families have three options, said the voting assistance officer. They can fill out the application status online at www.FVAP.gov; they can email the forms (which they receive from FVAP.gov) into their local state officials, but not all states accept the forms that way; or they can see Wilbur in Bldg. 5700 Rm. 280 or visit their unit's voting assistant officer.
Registering to be an absentee voter does not cost anything, just a few minutes of time, he said.
"The sooner Soldiers turn in their information, the better, because it does take some time for all of their information to be validated. Get it done early and get it done now," he said, adding that after it is validated, though, they should automatically receive their absentee ballots.
People will need some form of identification that will validate who they are when registering to be an absentee voter, just as they would when registering to vote normally.
"Some states do require some type of excuse of why a citizen is becoming an absentee voter, but being in the military or a military Family member always validates that," he added.
Different states require different times to register and how long the registration is good for, so Wilbur said to check state laws and regulations before submitting any forms.
Soldiers are some of the most important people that should vote, said Wilbur, being as they are government employees.
"Many times the shape of their careers, and the Army as a whole, depends on how elections fall, from local to national," said Wilbur. "Plus, they are voting for their commander in chief. They are often voting for who they want to work for."
The importance for Soldiers to vote from afar is something that Wilbur is passionate about.
"Serving as a Soldier in the United States does not mean giving up being an American citizen and its inherent rights and responsibilities," he said. "And one of those rights and responsibilities is to register to vote and to vote."