Saturday, January 9, 2010

Laws Change for Military, Overseas Voters

By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2010 - Servicemembers and overseas voters shouldn't assume they automatically will receive ballots for the 2010 elections just because they have in the past.

Previously, voters would receive absentee ballots for up to two cycles following their request, Bob Carey, Federal Voting Assistance Program director, said yesterday during the 2010 election year kick-off. He said new laws require voters to submit federal postcard applications for absentee ballots on a yearly basis.

In the coming months, Carey and his team will travel worldwide to train voting assistance officers at embassies, consulates and overseas military facilities to ensure voters understand the process and can exercise their right to vote.

"We are training thousands to train millions," Carey said. "[We want] to make sure that each and every military and overseas voter has the opportunity to successfully request an absentee ballot, receive their absentee ballot and cast it in time so it is counted."

The voting assistance program staff is striving to make it easy for voters to receive and cast their ballots for the upcoming election through the program's Web site,

Carey said his staff is converting to a Web-based process that's similar to many tax-filing programs, with an intuitive, easy-to-understand application. "You don't have to know how to go through the 250-page voter's assistance guide – all will be online," he said.

Once voters answer a few questions, Carey explained, forms and ballots automatically will populate with relevant information, making it easier for users.

Although the program's staff is doing its best to make the process easy for military and overseas voters, people need to move quickly to ensure they get to vote. Voter applications may take a while to make it to hometown election offices, and it could take up to a month after that for ballots to be sent to voters.

Carey said voters who have applied for a ballot but don't receive their ballot at least a month before the election should instead use the federal write-in absentee ballot available on the voting assistance Web site.

"When [voters] get their regular ballot, they should still complete and return it," he said. "If it gets there in time, it will take its place."

In addition to starting the process in a timely manner, Carey said voters also should:

-- Submit a new federal postcard application with every move so the most current address is on file;

-- Fill out all forms in their entirety, because officials need an alternate way to reach an individual so their vote can be counted if the form is illegible; and

-- Go to to see their state's requirements.

Although applications were distributed to all deploying troops before their departure, Carey said, many didn't know their future mailing address and therefore left portions of the application blank. Once troops have the needed information, they can complete the forms online, even from a computer outside of the military domain.

Related Sites: Federal Voting Assistance Program

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