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Federal Voting Assistance Program: Be Counted

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW/SW) Monique K. Hilley

“The process of electing our leadership is a fundamental building block upon which our constitution and our democracy are based; it is a right that our Sailors defend every day. As informed citizens and participants in the future of our country, every Sailor must consider it their responsibility to vote.”     ~ Vice Adm. Bill French, Commander, Navy Installations Command and U.S. Navy Senior Service Voting Representative

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan. Voting ballots organized and arranged for counting. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. William Greeson/Released)

As our service members fight for democracy around the world on battlefields in nations where many have never had the right to decide their leaders, Americans across the nation are preparing for the 2012 federal election season.

Since 1986, through the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), military members and their dependents can register and vote in Federal and State elections via absentee ballots in all states and territories where they maintain their legal residence. All military members should make it a priority to take note of that right and ensure their vote is counted by taking the proper steps to register and vote via absentee ballot.

Voting Facts and Figures

~ Voting is a constitutional right that American citizens 18 years and older can freely exercise. The FVAP and Navy Voting Assistance Program ensure members receive timely and accurate information on state and federal elections and the absentee voting process.

~ The 2012 election cycle will include the office of the President, 33 Senate seats, 435 Representative seats, and many state and local offices.

~ Every absentee ballot is counted, regardless of the election margin. Many elections are decided within the margin of absentee voters.

~ In 2000, Florida’s electoral votes for President were decided by 537 votes.

~ UOCAVA covers over 6 million potential voters worldwide.

~ About 70 percent of the 1.4 million active duty military members voted in 2000 compared with about 51 percent of the general public.


How to Register to Vote and Request an Absentee Ballot

Voters can request an absentee ballot and register to vote by completing a single form—the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA, aka SF-76). The FPCA should be submitted in January of each year and every time a voter changes address or at least 90 days prior to the election.

Boatswain'€™s Mate 3rd Class Jason Smith reviews the voting registration guidelines for North Carolina as he registers to vote aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Torrey W. Lee/Released)

The easiest way to complete the FPCA is by visiting www.fvap.gov and using the navigation wizard that will automatically incorporate State-specific requirements. The wizard will create a completed form and postage paid and addressed envelope template that can be printed and mailed.

The FPCA may also be completed by hand, using the Voting Assistance Guide. If a service member has not received his/her absentee ballot within 30 days of election, they should use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, as a backup ballot.

The Voting Action Officer is the service member’s best and nearest resource within the chain of command to assist in the absentee voting process.

Navy Voting Assistance Program and its Voting Action Officers

Voting Action Officers (VAOs) are critical to a successful Voting Assistance Program. Their job is to provide voting expertise within the command and to increase voting awareness. Specific responsibilities are outlined in the Navy Voting Assistance Program Instruction, OPNAVINST 1742.1B. Commands are required to maintain current contact information in the Voting Information Management System, as outlined in NAVADMIN 335/11 (071339Z NOV11). VAOs can find all of the information needed to administer a successful Voting Assistance Program at www.fvap.gov or by contacting the Navy Voting Action Officer at vote@navy.mil.

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