Overseas servicemembers should mail their ballots this week
WASHINGTON — If you remembered to register to vote last month, don’t forget to send in that absentee ballot this week.
Federal Voting Assistance Program officials are reminding overseas servicemembers to put their votes in the mail this week to ensure they’re counted in the November elections.
“What we want to emphasize is that now is a critical time,” said Scott Wiedman, deputy director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. “If they received the state ballot in the mail, send it back in. If not, they need to get a federal write-in absentee ballot and send that in.”
This year’s election on Nov. 7 includes 33 U.S. Senate races, 36 gubernatorial contests and every member of the U.S. House of Representatives, along with hundreds of local state- and county-level races.
Voting rules vary from state to state — “For some states, you can register right up until the day of the election,” Wiedman said — but for most the deadline for registering to vote has passed.
Those troops who requested a ballot last month should have received packets from their states in the mail, Wiedman said.
“Everything is included in there: the ballot, where to send it, complete instructions,” he said. “They really shouldn’t need to turn to our site [www.fvap.gov] for anything.”
Once voters fill out their ballots, they can be returned in the state-provided envelopes free of charge.
For overseas voters still waiting for their ballot packets, the process is more complicated. Wiedman said many troops may not have received the voting information because of the unpredictability of delivering mail to forward bases and other overseas locations.
Overseas troops or family members who believe they’re registered to vote but haven’t received a ballot packet should contact their local election officials as soon as possible to make sure they are eligible to participate.
For those who know they’re registered to vote, FVAP officials recommend filling out a federal absentee write-in ballot and mailing it back to the states this week.
The write-in form is available on the FVAP site as well as through unit voting officers and many MWR facilities. To complete that ballot, troops need to research which candidates are running in their local races and mail the form back to their local elections office.
Weidman said sending in a write-in ballot now should guarantee that overseas voters get their tallies in.
Checking your vote
A survey conducted by the National Defense Committee’s Military Voting Rights Project following the 2004 presidential election found that 24 percent of overseas ballots cast were not counted by local election officials because of mistakes by voters or vote counters.
Wiedman said local boards this year are required to collect more information on overseas ballots than in the past, and he encouraged troops to call or e-mail their election officials to check on their voting attempts.
“The only thing they have to contact you about is if your registration request is denied,” he said. “But most of these officials are willing to help voters overseas, so we encourage voters to get in touch with them directly.”
Online resources for overseas voters
A number of resources are available to help overseas voters with candidate information. None of the sites listed below requires registration or personal information other than a home address:
¶ The Voting Information Center. The Federal Voting Assistance Program allows candidates to record messages for voters explaining their qualifications and reasons for running. Voters can listen to their statements by calling DSN 312-425-1343. A list of access numbers is also available at www.fvap.gov/services/vic.html.
¶ www.vote-smart.org. This nonprofit’s Web site features a breakdown of state and federal legislative districts by ZIP code, and links to biographies and voting records of candidates running in November.
¶ www.nass.org. The National Association of Secretaries of State site offers links to all 50 state election Web sites, most of which list every candidate.
¶ www3.capwiz.com/c-span/e4. C-SPAN’s election site allows visitors to search for their local races via ZIP code or state, and provides links to candidates’ Web sites.
¶ New York Times election guide. The New York Times voting guide gives an overview of recent poll data in major state and federal races.