USA — Absentee Ballot Program Helps Overseas Military Voters

WASHINGTON — Amer­i­ca is found­ed on the idea of vot­ing. Yet absen­tee vot­ers — cit­i­zens work­ing over­seas or out of their home state dur­ing elec­tion sea­son — can be left out of the vot­ing process if they are unaware of absen­tee vot­ing pro­ce­dures.

The Fed­er­al Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram works to make the process of cast­ing absen­tee bal­lots eas­i­er for ser­vice­mem­bers and oth­er over­seas U.S. cit­i­zens, said Bob Carey, the program’s director. 

Carey spoke Sept. 29 on a “DoDLive” Blog­gers Round­table to dis­cuss the ser­vices his pro­gram offers, as well as to dis­cuss Absen­tee Vot­ing Week, observed this year Sept. 27 through Oct. 4. The week, held about one month before the U.S. gen­er­al elec­tions in Novem­ber, is designed to remind and inform peo­ple on where and when they can vote come Elec­tion Day. 

“With 34 days before the [mid-term] elec­tion, now is the time for vot­ers to be look­ing at how they’re going to get their bal­lots and how they’re going to get them back,” Carey said. “Too often, vot­ers don’t think about this until the week before the elec­tion — in which case for mil­i­tary and over­seas vot­ers, is too late.” 

The FVAP’s web site, at, now auto­mates much of the vot­ing process, Carey said. The reg­is­tra­tion and absen­tee appli­ca­tion process, bal­lot receipt and bal­lot mark­ing, he said, are all avail­able as online ser­vices now. 

“These tools are avail­able,” Carey said. “They’re easy, they’re quick and they’re intu­itive. Hope­ful­ly we’ll be able to increase, dra­mat­i­cal­ly, the vot­er suc­cess in this elec­tion cycle.” 

Carey said much of the con­fu­sion and time con­sump­tion that may accom­pa­ny the absen­tee vot­ing process is due to the intri­ca­cies of vot­ing reg­u­la­tions and reg­u­la­to­ry offices. In all cas­es, he said, elec­tions are han­dled by states, coun­ties and munic­i­pal­i­ties, so some­one work­ing in New York but reg­is­tered and per­ma­nent­ly resid­ing in Texas has to fig­ure out the absen­tee process, nav­i­gate any spe­cial rules either state may have, and then com­plete the vote itself. 

One missed sig­na­ture, or improp­er­ly filled form or oth­er mis­take, could derail the whole process, and the vot­er may nev­er know, he said. “There are no fed­er­al­ly run elec­tions; they’re all run at the state, coun­ty and munic­i­pal lev­el, so it can be very com­plex for the vot­er to be able to nav­i­gate that,” Carey said. “We’re try­ing to take that process and make it easy to nav­i­gate by doing all of the ‘home­work’ for them” 

For more infor­ma­tion about the vot­ing process and apply­ing for an absen­tee bal­lot, vis­it the Fed­er­al Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram web­site at

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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