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August designated as month for Armywide voter registration

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) - - The Army Voting Assistance Program kicked off its voter registration drive this month to ensure that every eligible soldier has a chance to participate in the Nov. 7 general election.

McCoy sets procedures

All Fort McCoy personnel planning to vote by absentee ballots in the upcoming fall elections are encouraged to obtain a Federal Post Card Application.

Information on how to complete the form, where to mail it, and what the deadlines are can be obtained from their unit voting officer or the Installation Voting Officer Bill Byrne by calling (608) 388-4696 or email bill.byrne@emh2. mccoy.army.mil

Everyone in the Fort McCoy community, including family members, is encouraged to invest in America by voting.

During August, every soldier and overseas civilian employee will be given a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), Standard Form (SF)-76, that will allow him or her to register to vote and request absentee ballots, officials said.

The month-long effort to register voters will be followed by Armed Forces Voters Week Sept. 3-9 and marks one of the last few weeks that voters can safely submit the FPCA and meet most state deadlines, Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) officials say.

One of the goals of the voting assistance program is to emphasize the importance of requesting registration and absentee ballots as soon as possible and encourage voters to return those ballots in time to reach their local election official's by deadline.

Deadlines vary for each state and can be as early as 30 days prior to the election or as late as the day of the election, but that doesn't leave any time to return the ballots, said Scott Wiedmann, FVAP deputy director.

Each state deadline is listed separately in Chapter 3 of the 2000-01 Voting Assistance Guide, which can be obtained by contacting voting assistance officers at military installations, U.S. embassies or consulates. A copy also is available at the FVAP Web site at http://www.fvap.ncr.gov.

Generally, most states will start mailing ballots to citizens 30-45 days before the election. "In order to give yourself the most time, voters should have their requests in prior to that 45-day period, then their ballots will be among the first to go out," Wiedmann said.

"Any time now is a good time to start requesting absentee ballots," Wiedmann said.

The Army Voting Assistance Program is part of the FVAP whose mission is to assist soldiers and other eligible individuals in requesting information about the election, registration, and absentee ballots.

An individual must be a U.S. citizen 18 years or older to be eligible to vote.

The program accomplishes its mission through the services provided by more than 70,000 voting assistance officers (VAOs) in military units, 250 Embassy and Consulate VAOs, thousands of state and government officials, and personnel at 6,000 Armed Forces recruitment offices nationwide.

The FVAP provides assistance to about 1.4 million military members, 1.3 million eligible dependents, and 200,000 federal civilian employees outside the United States, Wiedmann said.

"Although we can't do anything that is partisan, we can educate (voters) on how to participate," Wiedmann said.

That education includes reminding soldiers and overseas civilian employees of directives, policies and legal limits governing their conduct during an election year.

While it does not draft the directives, the FVAP recommends that members of the Armed Forces refer to the Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 and overseas civilian employees refer to the Federal Hatch Act for information on conduct during the election season, Wiedmann said.

Most civilian employees may be involved in political campaigns such as voter registration drives and can actively support candidates in partisan elections, but there are important restrictions on certain other political activities whether on or off duty.

Soldiers are on duty 24-hours-a-day. They can not participate in partisan political "management, campaigns and conventions." They are free to express their "personal opinions on political candidates and issues, but not as representatives of the Armed Forces."

Federal employees can visit the Federal Hatch Act Web site at www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm for more information on prohibited political activities. Members of the Armed Forces can visit the Department of Defense web site at www.defenselink.mil to view a copy of DoD Directive 1344.10.

The FVAP also recommends that soldiers check with their commanding officers or legal officers at their installations regarding political activities during the election season to be sure that any specific guidelines set by the installation are followed, Wiedmann said.

Army leaders at all levels are encouraged to support FVAP effort to provide all eligible voters the opportunity to participate in the upcoming election, Feazell said.

"We ask that commanders get personally involved in conjunction with the FVAP to urge, motivate and educate soldiers to participate so soldiers can exercise their rights as citizens," said Thomas Feazell, Army Voting Assistance coordinator. "If you are not a voter you are not involved in the United States process of freedom," Feazell said. "As a soldier you're just serving with no voice."

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