Local and national initiatives strive to maximize military election participation
July 19, 2012
- Military voters urged to register before state deadlines
- Online access and automation allows voting ease
- DOD encourages personnel to "carry out obligations of citizenship"
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- Soldiers, their families and civilians alike were reminded that voting season is just around the corner.
Volunteers manned tables set up in front of the commissary, PX, Martinez Gym and library on Schofield Barracks, as well as the PX, here, armed with brochures outlining the process required to register and ways to obtain an absentee ballot from local election officials, during Armed Forces Voters Week, recently.
Absentee ballots were provided to those of eligible voting age.
"We did this to remind not just Soldiers to do their absentee ballots, but to remind everyone to get out and vote," said Charlene Shelton, transition services manager and installation voting assistance officer, Directorate of Human Resources.
At the end of the day, Shelton estimated 50 voters had registered or received information on voting from the event.
Each federal election year, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, or FVAP, works with the armed services and overseas citizens groups to promote voter registration and absentee voting by conducting Voting Emphasis Weeks.
The 2012 Armed Forces Voters Week ran in conjunction with Overseas Citizen Voters Week, June 28-July 7, and received priority support from the Secretary of Defense.
During this week, commanders and voting assistance officers, or VOAs, encouraged all eligible and interested citizens to participate in remaining state primaries and to vote in the upcoming general election, Nov. 4.
According to the FVAP website, www.fvap.gov, the week also underscored the importance of early action on the part of the voter in order to obtain a ballot for the general election well in advance of state deadlines for registration and ballot requests.
In 2008, the No. 1 reason military and overseas voters did not participate in voting was due to failed ballot transmission, according to the FVAP's Eighteenth Report to the Congress.
In the report, local election officials reported they did not count many ballots from uniformed and overseas citizens because they were received after the deadline.
• The Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act
The predominant method of ballot transmission and return through the 2008 election cycle was by postal mail, requiring transfers either between the U.S. Postal Service and the Military Postal System for military voters, or between the USPS and foreign mail systems for overseas civilian voters.
Total one-way transit time alone could be as little as three days to as long as 30, even 40 days; however, absentee voters are given a total of 45 days to complete and return their ballots to local election officials.
In response, the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010) called for greater online access and automation of voter registration and absentee ballot systems that could make the voting process easier, more intuitive and more seamless for these voters while maintaining the integrity of the process.
Last May, the Department of Defense, or DOD, announced the availability of federal funding to support research to advance electronic options for military and overseas citizens when voting absentee. U.S. state, territory and local governments were eligible to apply for grants through the Electronic Absentee Systems for Elections, or EASE, grants program.
To date, a total of $25,442,413.56 in grants has been distributed, and FVAP has identified additional funding beyond the previously allocated $20,600,000.
The DOD is encouraging "all personnel … to carry out the obligations of citizenship" and for "eligible voters … to vote," in a memorandum released last month.
To further highlight the importance of voting and assist service members and overseas civilians vote absentee, the FVAP launched a new public service announcement, called "Gallantly Streaming."
A worldwide video contest runs through July 29 and is open to all U.S. citizens, government employees and military members, ages 18 years and older, living at home or abroad.
"As the 2012 election begins in earnest, we want to tap the vast, creative resources of Americans around the world to help deliver the message of our mission, which is to provide service members and overseas citizens with voting assistance," said Pam Mitchell, director, FVAP.
The contest will award $1,000 for the winning filmmaker in each of five categories. The winning videos will be featured by FVAP to support its voter assistance activities around the world.
"Voting is a fundamental part of who we are as a nation," Mitchell said. "We hope that aspiring filmmakers around the world will take up this challenge and give their voice to vote."
• Remaining Primaries
Below is a list of remaining primaries, listed by state and date.
It may not be too late to participate in the August primaries; if you have not received your requested state ballot, submit the back-up Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, or FWAB, to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
• August Primaries
Tennessee: Aug. 2
Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and
Washington: Aug. 7
Hawaii: Aug. 11
Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and
Wisconsin: Aug. 14
Georgia: Aug. 21 (Primary Runoff)
Wyoming: Aug. 21
Alaska, Arizona and Vermont: Aug. 28
Oklahoma: Aug. 28 (Primary Runoff)
• September Primaries
Guam: Sept. 1
Massachusetts: Sept. 6
Virgin Islands: Sept. 8
Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wisconsin: Sept. 11