• Staff Sergeant Stephanie Zolnak, technical inspector for postal services on Joint Base Balad, explains the process absentee ballots go through after they are delivered to Joint Base Balad post offices to the Hon. Delbert Hosemann, the Secretary of State for Mississippi.  Hosemann recently visited the 3d ESC and Joint Base Balad to promote voting participation by Servicemembers and learn about overseas voting processes.

    Explaining ballot tracking

    Staff Sergeant Stephanie Zolnak, technical inspector for postal services on Joint Base Balad, explains the process absentee ballots go through after they are delivered to Joint Base Balad post offices to the Hon. Delbert Hosemann, the Secretary of...

  • This graphic depicts the process by which the 3rd ESC processes absentee ballots in Iraq.

    How absentee ballots are tracked in Iraq

    This graphic depicts the process by which the 3rd ESC processes absentee ballots in Iraq.

  • Debra Bowen, California's Secretary of State joins Col. Cheri Provancha, 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) support operations officer in charge, as she turns in her official California absentee ballot to Stacy Fayas, Joint Base Balad East Side Post Office acting supervisor and administration specialist.  Provancha, whose section is responsible for distribution and tracking of all absentee ballots in theater, was part of a recent tour of Balad's mail facilities with Secretaries of State from across the U.S.

    Every vote counts

    Debra Bowen, California's Secretary of State joins Col. Cheri Provancha, 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) support operations officer in charge, as she turns in her official California absentee ballot to Stacy Fayas, Joint Base Balad East Side...

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - People all across the United States are looking forward to elections on Nov. 4. The campaign to register as many eligible voters is also in full swing in the States, as well as right here in Iraq.

"Most Soldiers and civilians have access to the Internet all over Iraq so most can go fill out, print and send in the registration forms," said Col. Cheri Provancha, support operations officer for the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). "For remote sites, each unit is assigned a 'voter registration officer or (noncommissioned officer) to insure the material and help are available to everyone that wants to exercise their right to vote."

Americans are located all over the world and military leaders of all branches of service have made available the resources so they can exercise their right to vote if they choose to.

"We are trying to inform the troops, no matter if they are in the States or overseas, in remote sites or right here on Joint Base Balad," said Maj. James Hess, plans and operations officer in charge for the G1 personnel section for the 3d ESC. "They still have a right to vote and we are providing the opportunity and are dedicated to giving them that opportunity."

The quickest and easiest way to register or request a ballot is to log onto the Federal Voting Assistance Program web site at www.fvap.gov and click on either the "military" get started box or the "civilian" get started block, said Hess.

"It's not hard and it's their right and privilege. The earlier they start the process, the sooner it's done, but it starts with the individual and their desire to vote," said Hess. Some reports have stated that registering to vote or requesting a ballot is a long and difficult process. Others in the military, however, feel the process is simple.

"I would tell them to follow me and I would help them out because it's too easy; it's just too easy," said Pfc. Angelina Perry, a member of the 70th Regional Readiness Command headquartered at Fort Lawton, Seattle, Wash., and attached to the 3d ESC. "Filling out my voter registration card is something I want to do and it's very important since this is my first time to get involved with history ... I want to be a part of it."

The journey for a ballot is a long one - more than 7,000 miles from Iraq - but the military's system has several reliable procedures to keep it on track down to the actual box they are placed in at each Army Post Office and daily reports of the progress are submitted to the commanding general of the 3d ESC to ensure the process stays on track.

"Ballots are separated from regular mail and placed in a specially marked ballot box," said 1st Lt. Calvin Ma, postal operations officer for the 3d ESC. "Ballots are then counted, certified by military and contractor voting representatives and the count is placed outside and inside of each box with a notice sent to the Postal Operations Directorate, or POD, and the Automated Military Postal System, AMPS, for complete tracking to (John F. Kennedy Airport) where it leaves our jurisdiction," said Ma.

After the box is packed and marked with special tape, it is placed inside a transportation container last so it will be the first item removed at the next destination. The box is scanned upon arrival at each station with a message sent to all reporting agencies informing them where and when it has arrived.

"AMPS is visible at higher levels, such as human resource company, brigade, sustainment commands and POD for tracking purposes," said Ma. If ballots are not moved in a specified period of time, a notice is sent to the ESC.

"Positive actions at the ESC level are taken for delays over 72 hours," said Ma. With the 3d ESC accountable for all mail coming into and leaving Iraq, they are being proactive in the movement of all mail - especially ballots.

"The 3d ESC is responsible for the mail distribution system here in Iraq," said Provancha. "We are tracking registrations and ballots from the remote APO stations all the way back to JFK Airport for distribution back to the United States."

Waiting until the last minute means ballots could be delayed due to weather or aircraft problems and, ultimately, not counted. "All deployed personnel need to understand their ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 4," said Provancha. "So ... Soldiers out on the remote sites need to understand the timing is very important for the APO to get their registration back to their county of record."

"We should encourage each person to exercise their right to vote," said Hess.

"Voting is one of our most important rights allowed us in the Constitution." The right to vote has long been one of the main foundations of the United States of America. From the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, American Servicemembers have fought and died all over the world to keep us free and give us that right.

"We are defending the right to vote and defending our constitution. It's kind of counterproductive not to exercise the thing you are here protecting," said Provancha. "By exercising our right to vote we are playing our part in deciding our own future in the armed forces as well, regardless of our political affiliation."

Page last updated Fri October 17th, 2008 at 10:40