Soldiers should know their rights when voting
October 18, 2012
Recent headlines have brought the Defense Department Voting Assistance Program and the military voter into the national spotlight.
Studies conducted comparing absentee ballot requests from service members between the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections from two key states, Virginia and Iowa, showed a 70-percent overall reduction in ballot requests. Similarly, other states that track military ballot requests have seen reductions greater than 90 percent.
In response to this, Congress has passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act which further clarifies the responsibilities of state and federal organizations.
These changes are meant to enable more than 6 million potential military and overseas voters worldwide to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
Below are a few key guidelines that will help maintain a successful unit voting assistance program and ensure every military voter can exercise his or her right to vote.
Commander's at every level need to understand their responsibilities as outlined in Enclosure 4 of DoD Instruction 1000.04 dated Sept. 13, 2012 and Army Regulation 608-20, The Army Voting Assistance Program.
Some key requirements in these references are:
- Appoint Unit Voting Assistance Officers (UVAOs) in every organization having 25 or more permanent party Soldiers.
-Ensure the UVAOs meet rank requirements and complete the required training within 90 days of appointment.
-Allocate time and resources for the UVAO to conduct training and other voting related activities.
-Ensure performance of duties as the UVAO is included in evaluation reports.
UVAOs at every level should: 1) ensure up-to-date voting assistance information is placed in obvious locations frequented by potential voters. 2) Be prepared to assist voters in the preparation of voting documents. 3) Report pertinent data to commanders and the installation voting assistance officer as required. 4) Conduct periodic UVAO training at unit level and participate in training at installation level. 5) Maintain accurate records of training conducted, people contacted and assisted. 6) Coordinate efforts during the lead up to elections to hold events such as voting rallies. Finally, successful brigade and battalion UVAOs should maintain a supervisory and oversight relationship with subordinate UVAOs to maintaining clear reporting channels.
- Identify their UVAOs and educate themselves.
- Ensure supervisors are made aware of their desire to vote.
- Become aware of state and local voter registration and absentee voting requirements. This information can be found on www.fvap.gov or state voting information Internet sites.
- Prepare appropriate forms and forward them to appropriate state agencies well ahead of deadlines.
- Never assume that because you are not currently residing in your state that you cannot vote.
Every citizen has a right to support their chosen representatives and vote on those issues that affect them and their families.
Due to the unique nature of the military lifestyle, the simple act of voting can be challenging. Many service members are simply unaware of the systems available to them or how to use them. A well resourced and executed Army Voting Assistance Program staffed by motivated UVAOs and supported by enthusiastic commanders can ensure service members and their families are able to exercise their right to vote.