By Jay Mann, Public Affairs SpecialistMarch 5, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- An estimated 70 unit-level voting assistance officers attended Federal Voting Assistance Program Training classes here Feb. 25 to learn how to help Soldiers vote via absentee ballots in upcoming elections.
The program is designed to train VAOs at military bases worldwide, according to FVAP officials, who said thousands of VAOs will help 6 million uniformed and overseas citizens vote absentee.
Erin St. Pierre instructed VAOs in the details of absentee voting during the training at Murphy Hall, part of FVAP's campaign to help VAOs at military bases worldwide. She explained that some people believe absentee votes do not count, but said they are misinformed.
"As long as it is done successfully, absentee votes will count," St. Pierre said.
Defense and State Departments directives require a VAO at all military installations' unit levels, and at every embassy and consulate to facilitate this effort, according to FVAP officials.
"Our goal is to bring the military and overseas citizen absentee voting success rate to that of the general public," said Bob Carey, federal voting assistance program director.
When voters miss deadlines or don't sign forms correctly, "that's where the problems come in," St. Pierre added.
It is not just Soldiers who need to know how the absentee voting process works but spouses and voting-age Family members need to be aware as well. It's up to the voting assistance officers to educate them, she said. Family members can use the same forms and have access to FVAP officials to answer their questions.
A lot of military members retain their voting registrations in their home states and require absentee voting, according to Deborah Seimer, Installation Voting Assistance Officer.
Seimer said VAOs are "on the ground with the Soldiers and their Families" to assist in absentee voting. She noted that VAOs can answer questions about what elections the Fort Rucker community can vote in.
Soldiers who don't know who their VAOs are should ask their first sergeants.
For more information about the Federal Voting Assistance Program or help with absentee voting, call FVAP at (800) 438-8683.