WASHINGTON – The presidential election is still more than four months away, but defense officials are reminding troops to get their absentee ballot paperwork taken care of now.

Voting assistance officers launched their semi-annual public service campaigns on Thursday, reminding troops that their ability to vote in November might depend on sending in the right paperwork in July.

Troops who have moved in recent years, deployed overseas or never registered need to alert their local election officials well in advance of the fall elections to be eligible to vote. Others may need to reaffirm their information to ensure that absentee ballots will be mailed in time.

“And for those who are deployed but may be coming back before the election, we’re telling them they need to remember to update their address as soon as they get back,” said Lt. Col. Paul Amrhein, chief of the Army’s Soldier Programs Branch. “There are so many distractions, we want to make sure [all soldiers] get an opportunity to vote.”

Amrhein said voting assistance officers will use the week to reach out to their units to explain the need to immediately address pre-election paperwork.

They’ll also man information booths at Independence Day events worldwide next week, providing state-by-state specifics and distributing the Federal Postcard Application – a universal voting registration form – to troops.

Amrhein said the public awareness campaign also includes information on what not to do this election season, highlighting violations of military politicking rules.

“We want people to have discussions about the elections and issues,” he said. “But they have to know this is a civil duty, not a military one.”

That means avoiding campaigning while in uniform, and limiting involvement in certain partisan election efforts. Earlier this year, an Army reservist from Iowa was reprimanded for speaking at a post-caucus rally for then-presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Amrhein said in addition to face-to-face meetings with troops, elections officials are also pushing the ArmyVoting Twitter and Facebook pages as resources on how to register to vote, get an absentee ballot and send back that ballot.

Additional military voting information is online at

shanel@stripes.osd.milTwitter: @LeoShane

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