The Federal Voting Assistance Program website is a resource for information on absentee voting.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program website is a resource for information on absentee voting. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — General elections for federal and state offices are more than a year away but it is never too early to think about registering to vote. As Americans, we are privileged with the ability to freely elect our representatives. As service members, dependents and civilian employees Congress has gone to great lengths to be sure our Department of Defense community can freely exercise our right to vote from anywhere in the world.

In an effort to encourage participation in elections by service members and dependents, June 28 through July 5 is designated Armed Forces Voters Week.

The goal is to create and encourage voting awareness and motivate absentee voters to participate in elections within their state of legal residence.

Many service members and their families are often stationed outside of their state of legal residence, which in turn requires voting by absentee ballot if they wish to participate in elections. For active duty service members, their state of legal residence will normally match the state they are claiming for income tax purposes on their Leave and Earnings Statement. For dependents eligible to vote, their state of legal residence may differ from their sponsor.

There are two important resources available to service members and their eligible dependents that are easy to access and use.

The first is the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, at https://www.fvap.gov. It is key to service members, eligible family and citizens overseas voting. This website was designed as a resource to make voting accessible anywhere in the world. It provides assistance and instruction on registering to vote along with state-specific guidance.

The Federal Post Card Application is the other resource that helps service members, their families and citizens living outside the United States vote. The FPCA is a dual-purpose form that can be used to both register to vote and simultaneously request an absentee ballot. The FPCA is also used to submit a change of address to your local election officials keeping yours and your families voting registrations current. To fill out a FPCA, contact a unit voting assistance officer, or go online to the FVAP website. Once you select your state of legal residence, you can complete a FPCA while being provided state-specific information, requirements and deadlines.

Election officials are required to send absentee ballots 45 days prior to an election to those who are registered and have requested a ballot.

Once an absentee ballot is received, it is important to vote the ballot and return it promptly to the local election official. This will ensure the voted ballot arrives prior to the cutoff date set by your state. Do research on candidates and issues beforehand in order to make completing and returning the ballot faster and easier.

The Installation Voting Assistance Office is available to offer voting assistance and information to everyone on Fort Leonard Wood. It is located in Bldg. 470, Room 2124. Call 573.596.2665, or e-mail usarmy.leonardwood.usag.mbx.voting-assistance@mail.mil for more information.

Voting is your right, privilege and a responsibility of U. S. citizens. Remember, service members can vote from wherever they are.