USA — Defense Department Launches Absentee Voting Week

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2010 — The Depart­ment of Defense today announced Absen­tee Vot­ing Week, Sept. 27 to Oct. 4, to help ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians serv­ing out­side their home states make their votes count.

With all U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and some U.S. Sen­ate seats at stake dur­ing the mid-term elec­tions Nov. 2, the department’s Fed­er­al Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram has launched a new set of tools to con­nect vot­ers with their state elec­tion process­es.

Bob Carey, FVAP direc­tor, said the program’s online elec­tron­ic vot­ing sup­port pro­gram and fed­er­al write-in absen­tee bal­lot are designed to ensure vot­ers get the appro­pri­ate bal­lot and can sub­mit it before dead­line.

FVAP’s vot­ing sup­port pro­gram, launched this year, offers precinct-spe­cif­ic online bal­lots and sub­mis­sion instruc­tions for the 19 states so far par­tic­i­pat­ing: Vir­ginia, Utah, Mon­tana, New Jer­sey, Neva­da, Kansas, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Wash­ing­ton, New Mex­i­co, Indi­ana, Nebras­ka, Mis­souri, New York, Delaware, West Vir­ginia, Ida­ho, Arkansas, Col­orado and Ten­nessee.

Through the online pro­gram, locat­ed at, “We can actu­al­ly give you a direct link to your state’s bal­lot deliv­ery sys­tem,” Carey said. “Or if your state doesn’t hap­pen to have that, then we have an online bal­lot that has all your fed­er­al can­di­dates. You can select online and print out the bal­lot online. It will give you a pre-addressed enve­lope and com­plete instruc­tions about how to get the bal­lot back home.”

Some states allow bal­lots to be returned by fax or online, Carey said, but the mil­i­tary postal ser­vice will express-mail any bal­lots mil­i­tary mem­bers or their spous­es sub­mit from over­seas.

“So Bear Coun­ty, Texas, has already got­ten back two bal­lots from Korea that were sent back by the express mail,” he said. “E-mailed out on Fri­day, and the vot­er got it, put it right in the mail, it got express-mailed back, was back in San Antonio’s hands on that Tues­day. Four-day turn­around.”

FVAP also relies on unit com­man­ders and vot­ing assis­tance offi­cers world­wide to help troops and civil­ians get their bal­lots back on time.

“We have over 9,500 vot­ing assis­tance offi­cers in the mil­i­tary,” Carey said. “They’re doing a good job; they got the mil­i­tary reg­is­tered at a high­er rate than the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. What we’re find­ing, though, is that while 91 per­cent of the absen­tee bal­lots in the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion are returned, only 63 per­cent of the mil­i­tary bal­lots were returned [dur­ing the last elec­tion cycle].”

In the past, bal­lots were sent by mail, which slowed the vot­ing process and meant some absen­tee bal­lots weren’t received before vot­ing dead­lines, Carey said.

“Now they’re being sent by e-mail or being post­ed online. We’ve tak­en a 30-day trans­mis­sion process and reduced it to 30 mil­lisec­onds,” he said. “Hope­ful­ly that’s going to be one of the biggest things we can get out there – let peo­ple know they don’t have to wait.”

For troops deployed to remote loca­tions where com­put­ers and print­ers aren’t gen­er­al­ly avail­able, Carey said, units may need to make spe­cial arrange­ments.

“What we’re urg­ing all the units to do dur­ing Absen­tee Vot­ing Week [is] to maybe set up one day where they have a com­put­er avail­able that has a print­er avail­able,” he said, “so any­one can come on in and at least get their bal­lot print­ed out if it’s being deliv­ered by e-mail or online deliv­ery.”

Carey said FVAP also is using social net­work­ing tools to reach poten­tial vot­ers.

FVAP is on Face­book, and we have a tool, an invi­ta­tion for peo­ple to send to all their friends to say, ‘Hey, here’s how you can get your bal­lot now.’ And if they go to the Fed­er­al Vot­ing Assis­tance Pro­gram Face­book page, they can find out all that as well,” he said.

The program’s goal is to make the FVAP Web site the only tool that Defense Depart­ment absen­tee vot­ers need, he said.

“We’re try­ing to make the FVAP Web site the sin­gle por­tal to be able to go to any state, any sys­tem, and it will be seam­less and intu­itive for the vot­er,” Carey said. “The expe­ri­ence of a Cal­i­for­nia vot­er may be very dif­fer­ent than the expe­ri­ence a New York vot­er has, because of the tech­nol­o­gy used. But hope­ful­ly, the expe­ri­ence in terms of the ease of vot­ing is the same.”

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

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter