By Joshua Ford (IMCOM)October 21, 2015
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Oct. 21, 2015) -- The U.S. Constitution mentions numerous rights that America's forefathers believed every citizen should have. One of those rights is mentioned in the Constitution more than any other - the right to vote.
According to a 2014 Federal Voting Assistance Program report, many Soldiers and their Families aren't taking advantage of their right to vote.
The report showed that military voters and their Families lacked a "trigger" to get to the polls and vote, said Madeleine Roberts, voting assistance program manager for U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Army voting assistance officers at Army installations around the world are launching a kick-off to the 2016 voting season campaign, Nov. 4 - much earlier than previous voting seasons - in the hopes of being that "trigger" in time to inspire Army Family members to go to the polls.
"It is important for Soldiers to vote because it is one of the freedoms in which they defend," said Rachel R. Gilman, the Army's voting action officer at the Army's Human Resource Command on Fort Knox, Kentucky.
"It's the job of the Voting Assistance Program to make registration, voting information, materials and assistance readily available to all eligible Army voters," she said. "We educate eligible voters about the importance of voting and provide every opportunity to register and cast a ballot."
Visibility of voting assistance resources and communications was listed as a key factor in initial motivation, according to the report.
Army voting assistance officers want Soldiers to get educated on the voting process and make plans to vote in the upcoming presidential election early.
"Some of our population doesn't have confidence in the system and believe their vote will not count or that they should not take part in the process due to being service members," Roberts said. "We want to provide awareness and ensure they have the tools to be active participants, and educate them on their voting rights as citizens. "
Soldiers are allowed to maintain political affiliation to a party and are allowed to endorse a candidate in a political race, Roberts said. Those are some of the misconceptions voting assistance officers are charged with educating Soldiers and Families about.
That education also includes how voting can directly effect Soldier's investments to include retirement and medical benefits, Roberts said.
Finally, voting assistance officers will be meeting with commanders at a local level to ensure they understand the importance of allowing their Soldiers the time to register and vote - even if it's via an absentee ballot.
"Getting support from military leaders plays a big role in Soldier participation," Roberts said.
"The bottom line is each individual vote matters," Roberts said. "Especially those votes coming from our military population. They are the ones fighting on the frontlines so we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we enjoy today: which includes that right to vote."