By Carrie McLeroy, Army News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The nation will not only select a
president in the 2008 elections, but also 34 senators, 435
congressmen, 13 state governors and thousands of local officials. As
in the past, officials said the military vote promises to play an
integral role in the democratic process.
Soldiers overseas register to
vote during a unit voting assistance drive. (U.S.
In the 2004 general election, 79 percent of servicemembers
voted, compared to 64 percent of the general public, according to the
Department of Defense's 2005 Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP)
report. Those numbers were up 15 percent from 2000.
Fifty-three percent of the military vote was as a result of
absentee ballots, and 20 percent of uniformed men and women voted in
person. The same report showed that 6 percent of military voters
attempted to vote but failed for various reasons, down 6 percent from
the previous general election.
"The Army hopes that by making information more
accessible, and the way it is disseminated timelier and more
efficient, the voting process will be even more successful this time
around," said Alton Perry, the Army voting action officer.
"Voting assistance officers are working hard to ensure
absentee ballots get into the hands of our Soldiers, DA (Department of
the Army) civilians, and their family members who need them, in a
timely manner," said Brig. Gen. Reuben Jones, the adjutant
general of the Army and senior service voting representative.
Voting rights of servicemembers, Merchant Marines, eligible
family members and other citizens residing outside the U.S. are
covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
The FVAP carries out the responsibilities of the act, and each service
must ensure those responsibilities are met.
The 2008-2009 implementing instructions for the conduct of the
Army Voting Assistance Program focus on two basic missions, with the
primary focus being "the traditional voting assistance provided
to Soldiers, their family members and overseas Department of Army
civilian employees and their family members."
The second mission involves educating every Soldier about the
significance of voting and the voting opportunities available to them.
In an effort to raise voting awareness throughout the services,
the department has designated several absentee voting events
throughout the year:
Overseas Citizens Voters Week (June 28 to July 7);
Armed Forces Voters Week (Aug. 31 to Sept. 7); and
Week (Oct. 12 to 18).
During these weeks, voting assistance officers (VAO) will
facilitate voter registration drives, distribute forms and provide
service-members and their families with important absentee voting
During Army Voter Registration Month in August, commanders and
VAOs will work with Soldiers, civilians and family members to ensure
that each person who wants to register and request a ballot from their
state election official can do so.
"One of the freedoms we defend as Soldiers in the Army is
the right to vote. It amazes me how many people take for granted the
freedom to vote." Jones said. "Don't be one of those who
gives up the rights you have sworn to uphold and defend for the
nation. Exercising your right to vote is extremely important. Every
vote counts -- and yours should be one of them."
Voting assistance officers will use the Voting Assistance Guide
for 2008-2009 and the FVAP Web site to assist them. FVAP provides VAOs
with the information necessary to give voters several levels of
Using these tools, VAOs can explain absentee registration and
voting for each state, territory and other jurisdiction. They also
will have the necessary forms including the Federal Post Card
Application (FPCA) for registration and absentee ballot request, and
the backup Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots (FWAB) available for all
potential voters, and will be able to walk voters through the steps to
submit those cards and ballots.
All states and territories accept the FPCA for voter
registration and absentee ballot. It is a postage-paid in the U.S.
mail, including the Military Postal System and State Department pouch
mail. Voters can request the application from their VAO, or download
it from the FVAP Web site, http://www.fvap.gov.
Once received, the card must be completed, signed, dated and
mailed to the local election official.
All states and territories except Guam accept the online
version of the card.
The FWAB serves as a backup ballot for citizens who have
requested an absentee ballot from their state, but have not yet
During Absentee Voting Week, the VAOs will distribute these
backup ballots to citizens and encourage them to use them if
The FWAB also is available on the Web at http://www.fvap.gov,
and is accepted by all states and territories.
"The Military Postal Service Agency has an excellent
system in place to ensure all Federal Post Card Applications and
Absentee Ballots arrive at the desired destination, making sure your
vote will be heard," said Jones.
The FVAP stressed that voters should work with their VAOs or
research their resident state's guidelines for state-specific
guidelines, as they can differ.
Although the Help American Vote Act of October 2002 extended
the FPCA's valid period to two regularly scheduled general elections
for federal office, officials recommend that all citizens submit a
completed FPCA to their state of legal residence annually, and each
time there is a change of address.
A voter's legal voting residence is generally the state or
territory where he or she resided before entering the military, or the
state or territory he or she has since claimed as his or her legal
According to Perry, local election officials should receive the
FPCA at least 45 days prior to Election Day, which is Nov. 4 this
year, to ensure ample time for processing and mailing. If a voter has
not received his or her ballot within two weeks of the election, he
should request a FWAB from his or her Unit Voting Assistance Officer
(UVAO) or Senior Voting Assistance Officer.
Although the percentage of voting difficulties decreased by
double digits from 2000 to 2004, local election officials sited
incorrect legal voting residence addresses, inadequate mailing
addresses and illegible handwriting as the top disqualifiers.
"When completing voter registration forms and absentee
ballots, it is highly recommended that voters consult their UVAO. This
is an attempt to eliminate the problem of state election officials
returning forms for inaccuracy during the 2008 general election,"
The Army's goal is to communicate to Soldiers and their
families the importance of voting and the steps they must follow if
they want to participate in the general election.
"While the military can't tell you to vote, we can supply
you with the resources to vote. Especially for those who are
out-of-state voters, but absolutely for those who are deployed,"
Jones said. "It's all about ensuring you submit your Federal Post
Card Application in a timely manner, which ensures you are registered
to vote and gets you an absentee ballot."
Voters can find more information regarding voting at http://www.fvap.gov,
and at the Army Voting Assistance Program site, http://www.vote.army.mil.
Voters can receive additional assistance by calling (800)
438-VOTE (8683), DSN 425-1584, commercial (703) 325-4530, or DSN
For more information about absentee voting in the Fort McCoy
community, personnel can call Maj. Mary Lou Tomko, installation Voting
Assistance Officer, at (608) 388-7652.