By David Ruderman, U.S. Army Human Resources Command Public AffairsMay 25, 2016
FORT KNOX, Kentucky (Army News Service, May 25, 2016) -- Some voters may need a little assistance and the Army is there to help.
The Army, through its Voting Assistance Program, makes voting registration and absentee ballot information available to all eligible Army voters, said Rachel Gilman, Army voting action officer with The Adjutant General of the U.S. Army Directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command's Voting Assistance Program. "We educate about the importance of voting and provide every opportunity to register and cast a ballot."
Gilman worked behind the scenes of the Army-wide kick off of the 2016 voting campaign, which got underway Nov. 4 of last year, and has been at it ever since, coordinating Voter Assistance Officer, or VAO, actions across the force and around the world, wherever Soldiers and their families are stationed.
The Army in particular has been conducting congressionally mandated workshops, training VAOs to help Soldiers and all eligible voters make the critical connection between wanting to cast a ballot and making sure it is counted. The workshops began Feb. 2 at Fort Hood, Texas, and will continue until the final one at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, June 7.
"As we approach the six month mark before the Nov. 8 election, make sure that your Soldiers, civilians, contractors and their family members are aware of all voting resources available to them," said Brig. Gen. James T. Iacocca, The Adjutant General of the U.S. Army.
"Encourage them to visit one of the 64 installation Voting Assistance Offices on American installations worldwide and ensure that they are aware of who their unit VAOs are," he said.
The next high profile push will come with Armed Forces Voting Week, to be conducted June 27 to July 1, which will see a surge of voter education and registration activities. Gilman said the Army has 30 workshops scheduled to train unit VAOs.
"The Federal Voting Assistance Program, or FVAP, conducts congressionally mandated VAO workshops oriented toward VAOs and persons that provide voting assistance at U.S. embassies and consulates, military installations and American citizen organizations overseas," said David Beirne, director, Voting Assistance, with the FVAP.
Beirne was at Fort Knox May 25 to conduct a workshop that drew participants from units and commands across the installation.
"Although primarily for VAOs, workshops are open to any interested person. VAOs from nearby installations, regardless of service, should be invited to attend these workshops at the host installation. The workshop takes approximately two hours and is an interactive, hands-on training session with the participants asking questions and making comments while reviewing forms and other resources," he said.
The aim is to prepare VAOs to effectively assist all citizens, both in uniform and civilians, covered under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, said Gilman.
With most nominating primaries and caucuses concluded and the nation's attention focusing on the general elections to come, now is the time for every eligible voter to take those steps necessary to ensure that their ballot will count. Then it's easy -- all you have to do is vote, she said.
"On Election Day, every vote matters," said Iacocca. "Your vote is your voice as an American citizen. It is your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in important issues that affect us."