JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Secretaries of State and a chief election officials delegation from Pennsylvania, California, Indiana, Mississippi, and Florida visited Joint Base Balad Tuesday to meet with Brig. Gen. Michael Lally, 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) commanding general, and receive updates on the voting process for Servicemembers serving in Iraq.
The delegation visited Joint Base Balad to promote voting participation by Servicemembers, learn about the installation's voting assistance program and Servicemembers' overseas voting experience. The delegation also received a briefing on overseas voting operations, visited an installation post office and the Joint Military Mail Terminal here.
With responsibility for mail distribution in Iraq, the 3d ESC individually tracks registrations and ballots from remote post offices in Iraq back to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport where they are received for distribution.
At each stop, the delegation received an in-depth look at the voting processes and procedures provided to Servicemembers deployed to Iraq.
"Servicemembers are already providing a valuable service for our country in defending our democracy," said the Hon. Pedro Cortes, Pennsylvania Secretary of State and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. "That democracy cannot continue to stand if people do not participate in the electoral process. It's our most fundamental right of citizenship and also our responsibility."
Cortes also stated that he and his colleagues were very impressed with the way and the 3d ESC and other installation voting assistance officers were taking proactive steps in making sure all Servicemembers are aware of specific voting deadlines and requirements of their respective states.
"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, they still have the right to vote and we are providing the opportunity and are dedicated to giving them the opportunity," said Maj. James Hess, plans and operations officer in charge for the 3rd ESC's personnel section.
The overall message that Cortes and the delegation continuously stressed to Servicemembers was the importance of voting and having their voices heard.
"I'm so delighted to be here in Iraq and I want to wish our troops a great election time," said Cortes. "It's very important that you vote so please make sure that you do."