Absentee Ballot Program Helps Overseas Military Voters

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2010 - America is founded on the idea of voting. Yet absentee voters -- citizens working overseas or out of their home state during election season -- can be left out of the voting process if they are unaware of absentee voting procedures.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program works to make the process of casting absentee ballots easier for servicemembers and other overseas U.S. citizens, said Bob Carey, the program's director.

Carey spoke Sept. 29 on a "DoDLive" Bloggers Roundtable to discuss the services his program offers, as well as to discuss Absentee Voting Week, observed this year Sept. 27 through Oct. 4. The week, held about one month before the U.S. general elections in November, is designed to remind and inform people on where and when they can vote come Election Day.

"With 34 days before the [mid-term] election, now is the time for voters to be looking at how they're going to get their ballots and how they're going to get them back," Carey said. "Too often, voters don't think about this until the week before the election -- in which case for military and overseas voters, is too late."

The FVAP's web site, at www.FVAP.gov, now automates much of the voting process, Carey said. The registration and absentee application process, ballot receipt and ballot marking, he said, are all available as online services now.

"These tools are available," Carey said. "They're easy, they're quick and they're intuitive. Hopefully we'll be able to increase, dramatically, the voter success in this election cycle."

Carey said much of the confusion and time consumption that may accompany the absentee voting process is due to the intricacies of voting regulations and regulatory offices. In all cases, he said, elections are handled by states, counties and municipalities, so someone working in New York but registered and permanently residing in Texas has to figure out the absentee process, navigate any special rules either state may have, and then complete the vote itself.

One missed signature, or improperly filled form or other mistake, could derail the whole process, and the voter may never know, he said.

"There are no federally run elections; they're all run at the state, county and municipal level, so it can be very complex for the voter to be able to navigate that," Carey said. "We're trying to take that process and make it easy to navigate by doing all of the 'homework' for them"

For more information about the voting process and applying for an absentee ballot, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website at

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