By David Ruderman, U.S. Army Human Resources Command Public AffairsNovember 2, 2015
FORT KNOX, Kentucky (Nov. 2, 2015) -- Wednesday will be the Army-wide kick-off to the 2016 voting season for Soldiers and their Families throughout the United States and around the world.
"It is the job of the Voting Assistance Program to make registration, voting information and related materials and assistance readily available to all eligible Army voters," said Rachel Gilman, Army voting action officer with U.S. Army Human Resources Command's, or HRC's, Voting Assistance Program.
"We educate about the importance of voting and provide every opportunity to register and cast a ballot," she said.
To that end, units and installations will host voter registration promotion events to trigger awareness and motivate eligible Army voters to take the necessary steps now to ensure they can cast their ballots in the year ahead, which will culminate with the presidential election of Nov. 8, 2016.
Fort Bragg will host a 10-mile run, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden will combine a voter registration campaign with its retiree appreciation day, and Fort Sill will conduct a Patriotic PT event, among other events.
The push to get out the vote is in response to the 2014 Post-Election Report to Congress published by the Federal Voting Assistance Program, known as FVAP, Gilman said. The report alerted lawmakers that military communities lacked a trigger to alert eligible voters of significant election season timelines. One conclusion was the "visibility of voting assistance resources and communications seems to matter most for the initial motivation to begin the process."
In response, the kick-off was scheduled for the day immediately after the 2015 general elections. Creating visibility and enthusiasm are key to the yearlong push to bring the largest number of Army community members to the polls, Gilman said.
"It's one day, worldwide, that units and installations 'trigger' everyone to start thinking about it. It's our call to attention to voting season," she said.
Senior level Army leadership is behind the push to register and vote as well.
"When I travel to our installations I meet with our VAOs - voting assistance officers - and reiterate the importance of making sure our Soldiers and Family members vote," said Brig. Gen. James T. Iacocca, the Army's adjutant general, who is the Army's senior service voting representative.
At the Department of Defense level, FVAP makes online registration, absentee ballot and detailed voting information conveniently available to military members and their Families throughout the United States and around the world, Gilman said. Their website affords eligible voters a wealth of useful links and informational resources to make registering as convenient as possible.
"It is painless and it is free. They can do it in less than five minutes. Just go to your state and pull down the forms. It is really point and click," Gilman said.
In addition, voting assistance officers and Soldiers can find a wealth of information and guidance on the adjutant general's voting web page.
The main failure individuals want to avoid is waiting too long to get started and contracting the I-wanted-to-vote-but-it's-too-late-now syndrome, Gilman said.
"That is why HRC is packing as much punch as possible into Wednesday's voting trigger. It is important for Soldiers to vote because it is one of the freedoms they defend, and we are making it as painless and convenient as possible to cast a ballot.
"Every vote counts," she said.