FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — The Federal Voting Assistance Program ensures that service members, eligible family members and overseas citizens know about their right to vote and provides them the tools and resources to do so — no matter where they are in the world.
Here at Fort Cavazos, Capt. Adam West serves as the installation voting assistance officer and he spoke with the hosts of the “Great Big Podcast” about the program. Though it is an additional duty, West has “taken the bull by the horns,” saying it’s an honor to ensure that those who serve are able to vote no matter where they are.
“As members of the military, it’s important that we not only exercise that right to vote, but know how to do it,” he said. “Some Soldiers join the military at a very young age, practically the same age when they are finally able to vote for the first time. That can be a confusing, somewhat bureaucratic, process to figure out on your own for the first time, let alone miles away from your home. Nobody should lose their right to vote just because the government has sent them on assignment somewhere far away from home.”
West said FVAP was designed by Congress to help Soldiers and civilians who are overseas to vote through absentee ballot.
“The process that has been put in place primarily through the website fvap.gov is extremely simple and self-explanatory,” he shared. “I think for a lot of military members that don’t exercise that right, they just simply don’t understand that it’s there. This is something that’s there, and they don’t need to be intimidated by it. Just do it because it’s easy.”
To request a mail-in ballot, someone simply visits the fvap.gov website, clicks on the tab that is applicable to them (military voter or overseas civilian voter) and they will be given directions to fill out the Federal Post Card Application. Once they fill out the application, they must mail it in before Aug. 1 of the election year to ensure they receive their ballot on time.
West said the website can also provide information on voting at your home and how to register.
“It asks you for some of your information, your home of residence or your home of state,” West said. “By doing that it helps you to find (out) who are the officials that are going to be up for election that year like your senators and/or your congressmen. It gives you dates for primaries. Next year is going to be a big year. Some of these states will be holding their primaries in May. So you need to look into that. It walks you through the process of how to register to vote for your specific home. It also gives you the information on different elections and people who are up for election that year.”
West wanted to stress that though the idea of voting from overseas may seem daunting, with FVAP the process is very simple.
“It’s something you could do in one day. Going to the website, filling in your information, print off and filling out the FPCA, then mail it in. However long it takes you to do that process,” he said.
West said the he wants to ensure that all units on Fort Cavazos have unit voting assistance officers.
“(Units) are actually required to have them,” he said. “There should be a voting assistance officer appointed for the first 25 Soldiers in a unit and then another unit voting assistance officer every 50 Soldiers after that. You should certainly have a primary and an alternate for each battalion size element at the very least.”
West said those who are interested in being a unit voting assistance officer should speak with their unit commander.
“I would tell them talk to your company commander, battalion commander, whatever level you’re at, and say, ‘Hey I’d like to be the voting assistance officer for the unit,’” West said. “If it’s something you are passionate about or something you want to add to your duties and responsibilities, by all means, volunteer to do it.”
West has a background in political science and interest in history, and explained that the voting age was lowered to 18 during the Vietnam War because many were being drafted to fight in a war they may not have agreed with and they weren’t even allowed to vote. The minimum age was lowered to allow them the chance to also make an impact and vote for what they believed in.
“There is a lot of cynicism out there about our political process and about our government, (but voting) is a right that very few people have ever enjoyed in the history of the world,” he said. “I just encourage Soldiers to keep that in the back of your mind. The reason you specifically have that right to vote and should be voting is because it has an impact on what you are doing and what you will be doing in the future for your job.”
Samantha Harms, co-host of the Great Big Podcast, agreed, adding that many people have fought for the right to vote in the past and Americans today benefit from that.
“A lot of people worked really hard to get that right to vote,” she said. “That’s how you have a say in what’s happening. At the end of the day that’s the whole purpose. It’s a great reminder for people why voting is so important.”