By David VergunMarch 11, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 11, 2014) -- Although the commander in chief is not on the ballot, this is still a "huge year" for voting, said Rachel Gilman.
This year's elections will "encompass all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 33 Senate seats" as well as state and local positions and other important things like initiatives and referendums, said Gilman, who is the Army voting action officer, Soldiers Program Branch, Adjutant General Directorate, Human Resources Command.
Mid-term election season ends with the November 4th election. The last primary is held in Massachusetts on September 9th. Deadlines for requesting ballots vary by State, however, the earliest for the general election is October 6th. States are required to send absentee ballots out 45 days in advance, so the sooner you register, the sooner you will also receive your ballot.
It's "really important" Soldiers and family members are registered, request their ballots early, immediately fill them out, sign them and return them in the mail. Also make sure the correct address is on the ballot request, she added.
Soldiers must identify their voting residence address when registering to vote. This address determines your voting precinct and for which offices and candidates you are eligible to vote. Your voting residence is the place you consider your true, fixed and permanent home. Your voting residence may be your home of record but if you have changed your legal residence at any point in your military career, your voting residence will have also changed. FVAP recommends speaking with a JAG officer if you are not sure of your voting residence address.
Soldiers can vote by absentee ballot if they are not in the state or territory where they are registered to vote. This is particularly the case for Soldiers stationed overseas, she pointed out.
Deployed Soldiers should request an absentee ballot at least 45 days before their state primary, she said. If they have not received their ballot from their local election official, they can complete a federal write-in absentee ballot.
Soldiers also can contact their local election office and use the federal postcard application to get that request in or find their state and its requirements at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website: www.fvap.gov.
All Soldiers should check with their state because every state has different registration requirements, she said.
Besides getting help from that website, every unit -- from company level on up -- has a unit voting assistance officer.
In past elections, she observed, "we saw a lot of people who were kind of frantic because they waited a little bit too late to either request their ballot or send their ballot back -- especially for those Soldiers who are deployed or overseas."
The Army Voting Assistance Program is a year-round program, since elections are often held in off-year cycles. "Last year we had special elections in different states," she said.
"It's a personal choice to vote so we want to make sure everybody has that right" and the information they need to do so, she said.
This year's voting theme is "Send Your Vote Home."
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