Troops Still Have Time to Vote Absentee

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2006 - Servicemembers and U.S. citizens living overseas still have time to register, request a ballot, and vote in November's mid-term elections, the Defense Department official in charge of the absentee voting program said here today.

While the registration deadlines for some states have passed, absentee voters can still register and request a ballot from about 30 states, said Polli Brunelli, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. She also urged overseas citizens who have received a ballot to complete it and send it in to ensure their votes are counted.

"If you've gotten your ballot, vote it and return it," Brunelli said. "If you haven't gotten your ballot, if you haven't registered and you want to register, there's still time to do it in many states."

The Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site, at, has state-by-state information on registration and voting deadlines. The site also offers a feature that lists electronic voting options for absentee voters, such as faxing or e-mailing ballots.

Because the mail system can be irregular, many states are instituting these electronic options for absentee voters, Brunelli said. It's up to the individual states to decide what is acceptable, she said, but about 35 states allow a blank ballot to be faxed to overseas citizens, and about 26 states allow a voter to send back a voted ballot by fax. These electronic options are helpful for troops deployed overseas, who often can't rely on the mail system, she noted.

"We're trying to make voting as easy as possible," she said. "It really isn't that complicated."

Electronic voting procedures do bring a certain amount of risk for confidentiality, Brunelli acknowledged. Because of that, voters who wish to use electronic procedures have to sign a security waiver saying they understand the risks, she said.

If overseas citizens have not received their ballots yet, they can use a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, which is available at U.S. embassies, consulates and military installations, Brunelli said. These ballots are accepted by all states and allow the citizen to vote for federal offices, she said. However, if someone has completed the write-in ballot and receives a state ballot later, he or she should still complete and send in the state ballot, she said.

The military has about 1.4 million potential absentee voters, and federal employees serving overseas and other citizens living overseas bring that number up to a potential 6 million, Brunelli said. Absentee voters usually participate at high rates in presidential elections, but often the smaller elections, like next month's, don't get the participation they should, she said.

"It's important to vote in all elections," she said. "Mid-term elections are incredibly important to the military member, to your families. It's your chance to voice your opinion and make a determination on who's going to represent you. It's an opportunity to participate in the electoral process; we want to encourage everyone to do that."

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