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Time is of the essence for troops who want to vote in this year’s presidential election.

The U.S. Postal Service’s recommended deadline to submit a postcard application form — which is used to register to vote — has passed. But it doesn’t mean that local voting assistance officers are giving up.

The deadline was set in the hope of avoiding the problems of the 2000 election, when thousands of overseas absentee ballots did not arrive in time to be counted.

Even if soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors missed the first deadline, the Army and Air Force commands say there will be a second push to help out the troops.

“In addition to making additional contact right now, we’re also going to be pushing our [voting assistance officers] in the latter part of August to go out and do a second contact,” said Maj. Ricky Harrington, U.S. Air Forces in Europe personnel officer.

USAFE and U.S. Army Europe officials had hoped to contact all soldiers and airmen by the end of the week. But Armed Forces Voters Week — Sept. 3-11 — will be one last chance for VAOs to reinforce concepts and advise troops of their voting rights and responsibilities, and to get last-minute postcard applications in the mail.

The commands said they do not track the number of servicemembers who have registered to vote, but rather the number of troops voting assistance officers have contacted about voting procedures overseas.

As of early last week, USAFE voting officers had contacted 79 percent or 26,900 U.S. military and DOD civilians assigned to the command.

USAREUR was unable to release its current figures, but the command said it had contacted 70 percent of its soldiers by the end of June.

“We expect to be close to 100 percent by Friday,” said Army Maj. Brett Lindsay, 1st Personnel Command voting assistance officer.

In an effort to reach all soldiers, USAREUR started handing out the federal form at unit formations in July, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Young, USAREUR voting action officer.

“We talked to all the soldiers, we took them to all the Web sites of their home states and we went back a second time to make sure everybody was registered,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matt Shea, of Headquarters and Service Company, 66th Military Intelligence Group in Darmstadt, Germany. “I would say we have 100 percent of our soldiers registered.”

The voting officers did their jobs making sure soldiers were informed, according to Spc. Dustin Pfaff, of Company A, 32nd Signal Battalion in Darmstadt.

“They made sure that we knew [about voting procedures],” Pfaff said. “I think it was battalionwide — all platoon leaders had to go to a class.”

Pfaff, along with Spc. Thomas Allen and Pfc. Chris Carder, also of Company A, said they mailed their postcard applications after voting was discussed at a formation in June. They said they received notification that they were registered with their states about a month later.

An additional 90,000 forms were sent to soldiers in deployed locations, Young said.

“If they register, that’s going to trigger the ballot to come to them whether it’s for the primary or for the general election,” Young said. “So it’s not something [servicemembers] have to keep up with [every year] as long as they are registered and keep their address updated.”

Ballots sent from deployed locations are to be postmarked no later than Oct. 11 in order to be counted in the November election. Troops in Europe are asked to send their ballots in no later than Oct. 15.

For servicemembers unable to get in contact with their voting assistance officer, the federal postcard application form can be printed off the federal voting assistance program Web site at www.fvap.gov and mailed at the voter’s expense.

Forty-four states also allow voters to register by fax, Lindsay said. And Florida — the site of the last election’s biggest controversy regarding overseas ballots — will e-mail ballots to its registered overseas voters for this year’s elections, Lindsay said.


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