Being so far from home is a challenge for deployed service members in lots of ways. Voting is one of those challenges. Naturally, voting is an essential part of American citizenship, and it's important for the military to make their voices heard when it comes to choosing the next commander-in-chief, and being a few thousand miles from their voting districts is no excuse for not doing so.
People with AT-4s should always have a say. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)
No matter where in the world service members are stationed, under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) military members have the right to register and vote using an absentee ballot. Most states require service members to be registered to vote before requesting an absentee ballot, but both can be done in conjunction by filling out a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).
When filling out the FPCA form, all changes in legal residency need to be updated. Service members should be careful and not confuse their record home address when they entered the military from their state of legal residence. State of legal residence should be the state listed in service members Leave and Earnings Statement or identified by the state which withholds their taxes.
To request a ballot, service members should go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website and select their state of legal residence. Once prompted, voters can register to vote, request a ballot, update their information, and check the status of a voted ballot.
As an emergency back-up service, members can fill out the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) to ensure that they meet election deadlines.
It is vital to make sure that service members are aware of the federal election deadlines for their state. Ensure that mail is sent early enough to account for delivery times. The Military Postal Service Agency (MPSA) provides estimated delivery times by location.
All services have voting assistance programs dedicated to ensuring that each service members vote matters. Check with your unit Service Voting Action Officer for more information or issues related to the UOCAVA act.
Go to the FVAP website to verify the requirements, deadlines, and information unique to each state. FVAP is a program vested in ensuring that service members have access to the tools and information they need to vote anywhere.