Every year, millions of Americans swarm to their polling locations, step into a cubicle, pull the curtain back and begin their time-honored tradition of anonymously voting for their candidate. But for service members stationed around the world, the process isn’t that simple.
Service members and their families are often stationed far from their home of record and can’t attend their local polling stations, but absentee voting ballots provide a solution for all those interested in exercising their right to vote.
Originally created to ensure Americans living overseas had an opportunity to vote, the federal government established the absentee ballot. Now the program assists service members and their families living within the United States who are stationed in a state other than their home of record as well as those stationed abroad.
Military units assign voting assistance officers to aid absentee voters with the registration process.
“It’s important that service members and their families stationed outside of their home of record have their voices heard,” said Staff Sgt. Scott A. Tung, supply warehouse chief for Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and the unit’s voting assistance officer. “Absentee ballots allow us to vote for the candidate we think represents our values and interests, and ensures the laws and policies passed reflect their values.”
Though voting seasons differ from state-to-state, fall and winter offer numerous voting opportunities. Service members and their families who are interested in voting can register for their absentee ballots at www.fvap.gov.
Once registered, they can elect to vote online or receive an absentee ballot through the mail. Their votes count toward the state and county of their home of record, Tung said.
But before submitting their vote, Tung urges voters to visit www.canivote.org, which offers additional information regarding the absentee voting process, state laws and information on the candidates for each office, to include their position regarding controversial issues, thus ensuring the candidate best represents the voter.
“The next person that comes into office might not give us our annual pay increase,” said Staff Sgt. Robert M. Wright, embarkation chief for MarForPac’s supply section, jokingly. “The point is that as service members, we should be involved in the election process because the decisions of congress and the president ultimately affect us. You want to make sure the people deciding what we do have our best interests in mind.”