Overseas voters should check website for registration options
NAPLES, Italy — With the 2012 presidential election campaign in full swing and the first primaries only weeks away, those living overseas who want to vote should think about registering now to cast an absentee ballot.
The Pentagon’s Federal Voting Assistance Program website offers a range of resources and easily guides voters through the absentee ballot process.
The site takes some of the tedium out of figuring out a state or county’s specific requirements, according to FVAP head Bob Carey.
“They don’t have to go through our 372-page voting assistance guide,” Carey said.
Voting requirements for military members and Americans living overseas can vary by state, but once a voter clicks on his or her last state of residence, the FVAP site provides specific information needed to register and get a ballot, he said.
Once the form is filled out, a PDF form is generated that the voter signs and mails to the relevant election office, although some states now allow ballot requests to be sent via fax or email.
“We’ll give them all the instructions about how to send these forms back in” based on a voter’s legal voting residence, Carey said.
There is still time for troops overseas to vote in next month’s primaries, FVAP officials say.
While the Iowa caucus on Jan. 3 does not include absentee voting, those wishing to vote in the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10 and the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21 can send registration and ballot requests to their local voting authorities via email or fax, in addition to traditional mail, leaving time to register, receive and mail back completed ballots if they act now, according to FVAP officials.
Those who register and receive a ballot for the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries will need to submit another ballot request form for the general election after Jan. 1, according to the FVAP website.
Voters looking to vote in the Jan. 31 Florida primary can request a ballot via email, fax or mail if they’re already registered to vote there. If they are not already registered, they will have to send their registration paperwork via regular mail, according to FVAP.
There are also emergency write-in ballot options on the FVAP Web site should a ballot not arrive in time.
States increasingly have online systems for military voters requesting a ballot, Carey said, and the FVAP site will direct visitors to those sites as well.
The site also contains resources for unit voting assistance officers, Carey said.
Carey said voters should “register early and register often.” Voters should submit a new ballot application every election, and when they change addresses, he said.
The Military Postal Service Agency and the U.S. Postal Service will again offer free express mail for completed absentee ballots next year. Troops serving overseas can express mail their ballots from any military post office, U.S. consulate or embassy by asking for Express Mail Label 11-DOD, and can then track their ballot via usps.com.
Through all these new tools, much of the guesswork will be eliminated for military voters next year, said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, head of the OVF.
“They have a lot to look forward to,” she said. “In terms of ease of voting, they’re in great shape.”