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HEIDELBERG, Germany — Like many U.S. troops stationed overseas, Spc. Stephen Parrott doesn’t know much about absentee voting.

While next year’s general elections may seem a long way off, deadlines to vote in state primaries are just around the corner.

Parrott, 25, of Bartlesville, Okla., has until the end of the month to register and cast a ballot in his state’s Feb. 3 primary.

“I haven’t begun to look into where to go to vote,” Parrott said.

Parrott is not alone. Findings from a recent Inspector General visit show that troops don’t know enough about voting, said Donald Wade, senior voting assistance officer for U.S. Army Installation Management Agency-Europe Region.

“We’re trying to overcome that now,” he said.

Army voting officials are kicking off their information campaign, which includes military broadcasts and messages on the Internet and in base newspapers, Wade said. Troops are also urged to contact their unit voting assistance officer, or visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site at: www.fvap.gov.

For early primaries, troops need to request a ballot by the end of the month, according to an IMA-Europe news release.

The primaries begin Jan. 13 in the District of Columbia, followed by New Hampshire on Jan. 27. On Feb. 3, Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina each hold primaries.

This year, voters from several counties in Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will have the chance to cast their votes online.

The test program is dubbed SERVE, for Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment. Eligible voters can use any Windows-based computer with Internet access to make their choice.

“That’s the point of the Internet, it makes things so much easier,” Parrott said. “If Oklahoma had that, it would be cool.”

A set of thick manuals, which offer the same information as the Web site, will arrive in the European theater soon, Wade said.

Each unit should have a designated location for voting information, Wade said. “The key person is the unit voting assistance officer,” he said, because each state has different voting requirements.

Soldiers in the 529th Military Police Company are not yet discussing elections, Spc. Brian Lane said, while waiting beside Parrot for a haircut.

Like Parrott, Lane, 25, of St. Louis, Mo., has until the end of the month to register for his state primary on Feb. 3.

Lane said he’s not convinced his vote means much.

“The popular vote doesn’t really matter, when it’s the Electoral College that decides,” Lane said. “But I wouldn’t feel right if I don’t vote. I’d be missing out on my say.”

Absentee voting tips

More information on voting specifics can be found at the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site: www.fvap.gov.

To learn more about online voting, see: www.serveusa.gov/public/aca.aspx.

Overseas troops can call the Department of Defense voting information center toll free from 59 countries. In Europe the numbers are: Germany, 0800-1007428; theNetherlands, 0800-0249769; Belgium, 0800-76834; Italy, 0800-874729.

— Stars and Stripes

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