Voting is one of the most basic rights for citizens of the United States. However, that doesn’t mean voting is always simple, especially for service members and their families who often find themselves moving around the world. The good news is that these individuals can still choose to exercise their right to vote no matter where they find themselves stationed.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program, a non-politically affiliated organization, can assist Soldiers and their Families by informing them about upcoming elections and the election process, and important voting dates for federal, state, primary or national elections. FVAP can also help Soldiers register to vote.
FVAP was originally designed to assist Soldiers who are deployed. However, the program changed its focus in recent years from just absentee voting to cover a broader range of election-related activities.
For Soldiers and families interested in voting using an absentee ballot, FVAP can be a primary resource of information on this process. Their website also provides voting registration requirements for every state in the United States.
“Our government is designed around a democracy,” said Gyles E. Gregory III, who manages the voting assistance program for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. “Every single individual's vote counts, so if you elect not to vote in an election, you're basically taking away your vote on how this country is governed and how your state is governed. It's important for Soldiers to understand that if they want to have a say in what goes on in the state and federal government, they should vote.”
Citizens who are interested in absentee voting can register to vote and request their ballot by filling out a Federal Post Card Application and sending it to their election office. Local election offices need Soldiers and Families exact voting residence address to determine which offices and candidates they are eligible to vote for — and to send you the appropriate ballot for their voting precinct. Once eligibility is determined, election offices send out absentee ballots at least 45 days before a federal election.
Voters should allow plenty of time to request, receive, and return their ballot and should send a new FPCA every year or when they move. Voters should also check their state’s absentee voting deadlines and information regularly. Following all instructions is crucial to make sure a ballot is counted. Service members and their spouses who requested a regular ballot form from their local election office, but did not receive that ballot in time, may also use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, which is a back-up ballot that can be used for general elections for Federal offices.
Gregory says that technology has become a powerful tool to make voting easier. Soldiers and their families can now easily check and verify key voting dates and requirements by simply looking online.
On the FVAP website, voters can find points of contact for all the different voting stations based on the district in which they are voting. These local-level contacts are often the best resource to find specific information about local voting area laws and requirements.
Brigades, battalions and companies should have appointed unit voting assistance coordinators who coordinate voting resources and assistance throughout the unit in person.
“Voting should be something that Soldiers and their families take pride in and understand that it is their opportunity to make sure their voices are heard at the local, state and federal levels,” Gregory said.
For more information, go to https://www.fvap.gov