By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2010 - The Defense Department's Federal Voting Assistance Program has a solution for overseas servicemembers and other U.S. citizens living outside the country who haven't received an election ballot: get it online.
With Nov. 2 midterm elections two weeks off, Illinois and New York recently joined the list of states and territories the Justice Department has filed complaints against or investigated for irregularities regarding absentee ballots.
"Department of Justice is working with those states to remedy the situation," Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said today. "Obviously, DOD's interest is ... making sure our troops stationed overseas are afforded their rights to vote."
For anxious voters, an alternative to mailed ballots is a few mouse-clicks away. New York and Illinois ballots -- and those of 29 other states -- are available online at the voting assistance program's website, http://www.fvap.gov.
Bob Carey, FVAP director, said today that New York has agreed to count all absentee ballots received by Nov. 24, but New York voters must mail those ballots by Nov. 1. "They can go to FVAP.gov and download that ballot right now," he added.
Carey said some states allow ballots to be returned by fax or online, but the Military Postal Service will express-mail any ballots military members or their spouses submit from overseas.
Additionally, voters from all 55 states and territories can use the FVAP online federal write-in absentee ballot automated assistant to vote for at least all federal candidates.
Carey said the federal absentee ballot can be used for all jurisdictions' federal-level elections.
"You can choose your federal candidates online. It will print out the ballot with your choices already in there, and give you complete instructions including a pre-addressed envelope to send back to your local election officials," he said.
Visitors to the site click once to say whether they are military or civilian. Either answer leads them to an interactive U.S. map. Clicking on their home of record or state of most recent residence will lead to options to register to vote or to request or track a ballot. Each of these options leads to a state-specific page that tells voters what to do next to download or request and to mark and return their ballots.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program website also offers a reference center that provides answers to frequently asked questions, program contact information, and a chat option for voters who need more help.
"It's not too late to get your absentee ballot," Carey said. "You can get your ballot online today, and send it back, and it will get back in time to be counted."
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