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Constance Hazel last cast a ballot when Jimmy Carter was running for re-election in 1980.

A lot can change in 25-plus years, so you’ll have to forgive Hazel if her memories are foggy of the last time she actually lived in the States.

Since then, she hasn’t bothered to cast a ballot. Until this year, when an unprecedented presidential election prompted her to make her voice heard.

"It’s a phenomenal voting year," said Hazel, who works at a child development center in Ansbach, Germany. "There’s a first African-American on the ballot, there was a first woman candidate. I wanted to be a part of it in a small way."

But a lot has changed since Hazel left the tiny town of Lometa in Lampasas County, Texas.

More than 25 years ago, she lived on a rural route and her address was a post office box. Since then, the county gave every residence a formal street address, and that bit of information is required by the state and county to vote absentee.

It’s something Hazel never had.

She contacted the Ansbach garrison’s voting assistance people. She e-mailed the election officials in Lampasas and took her problem to the Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, to no avail. No street address meant no vote, and she said she was unable to identify her old home by looking at online satellite images.

"I don’t know my physical address," she said earlier this month. "And I don’t recognize the area after 25 years. It just kind of got stuck there."

"I feel homeless and a little misplaced," she said. "I was really looking forward to it this year."

There was only so much that voting officials could do to help, Scott Hamilton, the deputy voting assistance officer for Ansbach, said last week.

"On the absentee ballot you can’t put a box number, you have to have a physical address or location," Hamilton said. "She couldn’t for the life of her remember where it was.

"I was kind of flummoxed myself," Hamilton said. "I didn’t know exactly how to assist."

Dorothy Person, the election administrator for Lampasas County, which includes many military voters from nearby Fort Hood, also said an address was essential.

Person said Hazel was "not the first one" to deal with such an issue.

Finally last week, the DOD’s Federal Voting Assistance Program worked out a deal where Hazel will be able to use a cross street in tiny Lometa as her address, according to FVAP deputy director J. Scott Wiedemann.

The conversion of even the most remote areas to a street address system was done to help the 911 system and election databases in recent years across the country, he said.

Wiedemann stressed that the last address is essential, even if that residence no longer exists.

"Even if that house is torn down, there’s a shopping mall there now, they can still use that address," he said.

Last week, Hazel told Stars and Stripes that she appeared all set to vote.

"This is a history-making election," she said. "I want to be a part of it."


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