By Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
Carey was appointed as FVAP’s new director in July 2009. An active advocate for military and overseas voters, he previously served as the executive director of the National Defense Committee – a grass roots organization that protects the legal rights of individual service members – and as a Board Member of the Overseas Vote Foundation.
In October 2004 I got the call that so many of you have received – I’d been mobilized! It was three weeks before the election, and it was too late to get an absentee ballot in time. Only because I hadn’t deployed overseas yet from my mobilization site was I able to take leave, fly back to New York City at my own expense, and cast my ballot in person. With my fall 2005 demobilization approaching, I was extended close to the November 2005 New York City mayoral election, and again was only able to vote by taking leave from my demobilization site, flying back to New York City, and voting in person. I got to vote, but I had to pay a heck of a poll tax in used leave, airfares, and taxis.
That got me thinking – there has to be a better way! Five years later, FVAP is on the brink of providing just that; a suite of online applications and assistants to make it easy, intuitive, seamless, and quick for you to register to vote and request an absentee ballot, receive your absentee ballot, and even mark it online.
And now is the time to do this: This November the United States will hold elections for 435 U.S. Representatives, 38 U.S. Senators, and 39 State and Territorial Governors. That’s a lot of people making decisions for us. Your vote is your say in how this country is run.
To help you do this, the Federal Voting Assistance Program has stepped up and is making the type of changes many of you have been asking for, and which FVAP thought were very doable. First, we want you to be able to complete your registration and absentee ballot applications online, and FVAP has developed an easier method for you to do that.
This week is Armed Forces Voters’ Week and FVAP is launching a new online voter registration assistant to ease this process. You will no longer have to jump from one page to another in 290-page Voting Assistance Guides to find out what exactly is required by your State. You will no longer have to figure out where or how to mail your registration. Everything is given to you. The assistant asks you easy and intuitive questions needed for your specific State. Then, when you are done, it automatically fills out the form, which you then print, sign, and send back to your election official. The assistant gives you everything you need: form, where to send it, delivery instructions, even a preaddressed envelope template.
You may be absent on Election Day, but you can be accounted for. This summer FVAP will also be deploying an online assistant for back-up ballots (the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot, or FWAB), usable for all States’ federal races, and for 20 States, a full online ballot delivery and marking assistant for federal, State and local races.
For now, visit fvap.gov, fill out your online registration and absentee ballot application, and send it back in July so that your election official has time to process it and send back your absentee ballot the full 45 days mandated for the November general election.
For more information, read the Defense.gov story: “Online Program Helps Military Families Vote Absentee”