By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs September 10, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- With the presidential tickets decided and convention season now in the rearview mirror, voters are preparing to cast their ballots and cross their fingers for their candidates. Casting a ballot from Germany, however, isn't as simple as skipping over to the local polling place. Overseas and military voters must register in their state of residence, request an absentee ballot and return the completed ballot to effectively cast a vote.
These steps are, of course, met with strict deadlines which vary from state to state.
Listed below are the voting cutoff dates for states boasting large numbers of residents in the armed services. Residents of all states and territories, however, may register to vote and request a ballot within their state at the VFAP.gov, which streamlines the process for overseas military personnel, families and civilians. The General Election is held in all states on Nov. 6.
Florida: Registration deadline: Oct. 9; Ballot request: Oct. 31; Ballot return: Nov. 16, postmarked by Nov. 6.
Election.myFlorida.com is a wealth of information for voters. Florida residents can scroll through the names of every candidate running for every office in the Sunshine State. To simplify matters, voters may search by county, office or group -- such as federal or state. To learn more about overseas voting, head to "For the Voters," then "Voting Information," and "Absentee Voting." The site also lists committees and parties, FAQs and a voter assistance hot line in English or Spanish: 1-866-308-6739. First time voters in Florida must send a copy of a photo ID (military ID card, passport, driver's license, etc.) along with the absentee ballot application.
For more information, visit www.longdistancevoter.com/florida.
Virginia: Registration deadline: Oct. 30; Ballot Request: Oct. 30; Ballot Return: Nov. 6. Attention Virginia voters: Because Virginia now requires voters to present a federal ID at the polls, overseas voters voting for the first time must include a copy of a driver's license, military ID, or voter ID card with the mailed ballot or the vote will not count. Additionally, overseas voters without a physical abode in Virginia who are not active duty or family members may only vote in federal elections unless employment information is provided along with the ballot request. The elections website in Virginia, www.sbe.virginia.gov, is dense, wordy and full of restrictions. Read the "Military and Overseas Voters" page carefully.
Washington: Registration deadline: Nov. 6; Ballot request: Nov. 6; Ballot return: Nov. 26.
Washington voters can visit www.sos.wa.gov to register to vote online with MyVote or a Facebook App, or the old fashioned way of snail mail. The "Overseas and Military Voters" page provides straightforward directions. Washington State takes admirable pains to ensure its voters are informed. Click on "2012 Ballot Measures" for state initiatives and referenda. Residents can also request voters' pamphlets and access county-specific candidate information on the "Military and Overseas Voters" page.
New York: Registration deadline: Oct. 12; Ballot request: Oct. 26 for military and family members, Oct. 12 for overseas civilians; Ballot return: Nov. 19, postmarked by Nov. 5
State primaries: New York residents already in possession of a state primary ballot may still vote in the primary elections if the ballot is postmarked by Sept. 12 and received by the local board of elections no later than Sept. 18.
The New York state Board of Elections website, www.elections.ny.gov, is easy to navigate and provides ample information. For material on military or overseas voting, click "Need an Absentee Ballot?" or "Are you in the Armed Forces or live overseas?" The latter will direct visitors to https://overseasvotefoundation.org. This exceptionally user-friendly site allows voters to register, request a ballot, track a ballot and access all dates, deadlines and contact info.
California: Registration deadline: Oct. 22; Ballot request: Oct. 30; Ballot return: Nov. 6.
Even if already registered to vote in California, residents must apply for a Special Absentee Ballot by filling out and sending in the Federal Post Card Application before requesting a ballot. For the vote to count, the ballot must be mailed and received by the county elections official no later than 8 p.m. on Nov. 6, when the state's polls close. For more, visit www.sos.ca.gov/elections and click "Military and Overseas Voters" under the "Voter Registration" headline.
Georgia:Registration deadline: Oct. 9; Ballot request: Nov. 2; Ballot return: Nov. 9, postmarked by Nov. 6
For historical and up-to-date election results and statistics, county elections office contact info, a general rundown on voting in Georgia and absentee voting guidelines, visit www.sos.ga.gov/elections. The military and overseas voters page answers ample FAQs, provides video demonstrations and allows visitors to download all necessary forms.
Texas: Registration deadline: Oct. 9; Ballot request: Oct. 30; Ballot return: Nov. 12, postmarked by Nov. 6.
At www.sos.state.tx.us/elections, Texans can retrieve basic run-downs on candidates and state specific data for overseas and military voters. Overseas voters may also download the Federal Post Card Application to register and request an absentee ballot.
In a recent rash of legislation, many states now require a photo ID to cast a vote. How these new laws affect overseas or military voters varies state-by-state. Some states, such as Florida, require first-time voters to provide identification before casting a ballot. Other states, such as Alabama, waive the photo ID requirement for overseas and military voters, while New Hampshire provides zero exceptions. State election websites should list ID obligations for enfranchised residents.