FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 25, 2014) -- As the election draws near, it is common to continually hear some of the following statements about absentee voting, which, for the most part, prove to be false. There are some that have conditional clauses, but most can be ruled out completely.
Remember, if you have any doubt, you may always go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, FVAP.gov, to seek clarification.
What isn't a myth is that the rights of absentee voters are protected by law. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act protects the rights of servicemembers to vote in Federal elections regardless of where they are stationed. It also protects the Federal voting rights of U.S. citizens residing outside the United States. FVAP administers UOCAVA for the Department of Defense and is the local source to check the many myths about voting.
Myth: Absentee ballots only count in close elections.
Reality: False. Absentee ballots submitted in accordance with state laws are counted for every election. The difference is that in a close election the media reports that the outcome cannot be announced until after the absentee ballots are counted. However, all ballots are counted in the final totals for every election -- and every vote (absentee or in-person) counts the same.
Myth: People can vote in person at a local embassy or consulate, or on a military installation.
Reality: False. U.S. elections are run at the state level, and citizens must communicate directly with their election officials to register, request a ballot and vote. Voting Assistance is available at most embassies, consulates and in all military units to help in the completion of necessary forms. People should take into account submission and mail delivery time to ensure forms are received by the state deadline.
Myth: All states have the same election rules and deadlines for military and overseas voters.
Reality: False. States have different rules in regard to how and when the forms are returned. Visit FVAP.gov for state-specific guidelines.
Myth: Military spouses and dependents cannot use military absentee voting forms.
Reality: False. Military Family members who will be 18 years old by election day should use the same Federal Post Card Application and Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot that members of the Uniformed Services and overseas citizens do, even when voting absentee stateside. Family members attending college overseas should also use those forms.
Myth: A U.S. citizen who was born overseas and has never lived in the U.S. must pay taxes, but cannot exercise their right to vote.
Reality: It depends. A growing number of states now allow U.S. citizens who were born abroad but never resided in the U.S. to vote using the address where a parent or other relative is eligible to vote. Visit FVAP.gov to see a current list of states that allow these U.S. citizens to vote.
Myth: Voting will affect the tax status of overseas citizens.
Reality: It depends. Voting for federal office candidates will not affect people's federal or state tax liability. Depending on the laws of their state, voting for state or local offices may affect people's state income tax liability. Those who are concerned about their state status should consult legal counsel.
Myth: Absentee ballots are not secret.
Reality: False. State absentee ballots and the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot are designed with a "Secrecy Envelope," allowing for the separation of the voter's identity from the cast ballot. Voting assistance officers also ensure voters casting absentee ballots on Department of Defense facilities are able to do so in a private and independent manner. Local election officials are professionals who go to great lengths in their ballot-handling procedures to ensure everyone's vote and personal information are kept private.
Myth: People can't vote if they're deployed.
Reality: False -- they absolutely can vote while deployed. People registered to vote while deployed and who don't get their state ballot in time to vote from their location can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot found at FVAP.gov. People should remember to submit the form at least 30 days before the scheduled election.
Local election information
Myth: Voters will be turned away if they are wearing campaign apparel.
Reality: Voters in most states may wear campaign buttons, shirts, hats or most other campaign items when they enter the polling place to vote -- voters may not otherwise campaign there. Each state typically imposes a distance rule from the entrance to any polling place.
Myth: Provisional ballots are only counted when there is a close race.
Reality: A provisional ballot is always counted when the voter is shown to be registered and eligible regardless of the closeness of the outcome of the election. A person who votes provisionally simply because he or she forgot identification at the polls will not have to do anything else. If the signatures on that ballot certificate and the voter roll match, the provisional ballot is counted.
Myth: Students who change addresses for voting will be dropped from their parents' insurance or lose financial aid.
Reality: Not true. People can't be dropped for registering to vote. This is typically used as an intimidation tactic to suppress the vote, as recently happened in Virginia, according to the "New York Times."
Myth: A vote won't make a difference
Reality: Not true. The old adage is "every vote counts," and in two past presidential elections, that's been truer than ever. In 2004, President George Bush beat Democratic rival Senator John Kerry 51 percent to 48 percent, winning by just more than 3 million votes. The 2000 election was even closer. The final official count in Florida had Bush winning the state by just 537 votes, thus clinching the election.
Of course, these myths vs. realities only matter to those who register to vote. For more information, people can contact their unit voting assistance officer, or call the installation voting assistance office at 255-1839, or send an email to email@example.com.