Officials spread the word on how to vote from overseas
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 1, 2016
Voting assistance officers are using Independence Day celebrations to encourage U.S. military personnel stationed overseas to register to vote.
“Registering and requesting a ballot is a great way for servicemembers and overseas citizens to celebrate July 4th,” Federal Voting Assistance Program Director Matt Boehmer said in a statement.
The program is promoting Armed Forces Voters Week and Overseas Citizens Voters Week over the long weekend with support from the Defense and State departments. U.S. military installations, embassies, consulates and overseas citizens groups are offering voter registration opportunities as part of holiday celebrations.
Joseph Dyson, a voting assistance officer at Yokota Air Base in Japan, said Friday he had helped 200 people register to vote over the past few months and expects to be even busier as November’s presidential election nears.
“In previous elections there were issues with military votes being counted,” he said. “Now there are more safeguards in place.”
Dyson, who is also Yokota’s Force Support Squadron operations officer, said there’s plenty of information about how to vote from overseas at FVAP.gov.
The first step for overseas citizens to cast an absentee ballot involves submitting a federal postcard application, which is available on the website. Voters can fill out the form by hand or use the online assistant before they print, sign and send it to their election office, according to the FVAP statement.
The sooner that voters register and request their ballot, the greater the likelihood they can successfully vote. That’s because ballots must be sent back before individual state deadlines, which vary. Each state’s voter registration and ballot request deadline is available on the website, the statement said.
FVAP recommends people register to vote and request an absentee ballot by Aug. 1, the statement said.
Three quarters of the 1.3 million servicemembers are eligible to cast absentee votes because they are stationed away from their voting residence and polling place, according to FVAP.
There will be another Overseas Citizens Voters Week in September, Dyson said.