WASHINGTON — If you want to vote in next year’s presidential primaries, get your paperwork in now.

Voting officials are encouraging all overseas troops to make sure they contact state offices far in advance of the 2008 primaries to make sure their names and addresses are in the election records.

Last month, a report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission said that less than 48 percent of overseas military personnel who tried to vote in the 2006 Congressional election successfully cast their ballots. Officials said nearly 72 percent of those who failed never received their ballots, either because of out-of-date addresses, postal errors or slow delivery of materials.

“Primaries are scheduled for January and February, and troops need to remember that the holidays are coming up, too,” said Polli Brunelli, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. “And if they act now, there’s more time to deal with problems that may come up.”

The District of Columbia and 24 states have scheduled their primaries before Feb. 15. The process of mailing a ballot to overseas voters and them sending it back through the postal system can take a month, which means troops who wait until December to register could miss their chance to vote.

The federal postcard application, a universal voter registration form accepted by all U.S. states and territories, now can be submitted via e-mail, Brunelli said. Instructions on how to file that are available through the FVAP Web site,, or through units’ election assistance officers.

Brunelli said voting officials are targeting several groups to get that paperwork in, including:

Troops (or dependents) who are stationed overseas but have moved since the 2006 elections;Troops who have deployed and won’t return before their state’s primary;Troops who previously have not designated a party affiliation on their voting paperwork;Troops voting for the first time.However, she noted that anyone can refile the form as a precaution to ensure their records are up-to-date.

“It doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t hurt to check,” she said. “Maybe the election office has a new e-mail policy, or maybe there are other alternatives and information on casting the ballot. So I’d tell them all to send it in.”

For more information on next year’s elections and voter eligibility, visit the FVAP Web site.

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