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Voting While You’re Away from Home: The Absentee Voting Process

Your right to vote is one of the fundamental rights that you and your loved ones have sacrificed for, and it shouldn't be forgotten just because you can't get to the voting booth. The Tuesday following the first Monday in November is Election Day. Even if you may be deployed or geographically separated from the district in which you're registered, you can still cast an absentee ballot and make your voice heard.

Applying for an absentee ballot

Votes from service members and their families who are away from their home state or overseas make up an important part of the electorate. Because many of you will be away from your registered district this November, it's important to learn who your voting assistance officer is. This person is responsible for helping you get any materials you need to register to vote and file an absentee ballot. If you haven't met your voting assistance officer yet, you can learn more from the personnel administration office.

Every state sets its own deadline for when absentee ballot applications are due, as well as the ballots themselves, so make sure you take the necessary steps to have a ballot in the mail in time to make the Election Day deadline. Remember, although some states may allow you to fax or email your ballot, most states prefer to receive ballots by mail. For overseas voters, this may mean putting the ballot in the mail weeks before an election, so don't delay.

Find out about your state's deadlines. You can learn the dates of your state's deadlines (for applying for an absentee ballot and for submitting one) by talking to your voting assistance officer or by using the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.

Apply for an absentee ballot. In every state, one application serves to register you to vote and to request an absentee ballot. The application, known as the Federal Post Card Application, can be obtained from your voting assistance officer or use the online assistant that will walk you through filling out the form. Send the completed application to the local election official in the county where you have established residency. Addresses can be found on the state pages of the Federal Voting Assistance Program website. You can also get the address from your voting assistance officer.

Some states allow a family member - a proxy - to register a service member to vote and to request an absentee ballot to mail to the service member. The ballot, though, must go directly from the service member to the local election official.

If you do not receive your ballot and you are in danger of missing the absentee voting deadline, your voting assistance can provide you with an emergency or back-up ballot, called an SF 186 Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, or you can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot online assistant that will walk you through filling out the form. All states accept this ballot for all federal elections. Mail your ballot as early as possible to allow for mail delays.

The Federal Voting Assistance Program

The Federal Voting Assistance Program was established to make the voting process as easy as possible. The Federal Voting Assistance Program website lists voting information for each state and features an online voter-registration assistant which simplifies the process of registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot. You can also call the program toll-free, Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT, at 800-438-VOTE (8683) or DSN 425-1584 (CONUS)/312-425-1584 (OCONUS), email, or receive live chat assistance at Toll-free numbers from 67 countries are listed on the website as well. For more information about absentee voting or to learn more about options available to you, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program website or contact your voting assistance officer. You can also receive voting news and updates by liking the Federal Voting Assistance Program on Facebook and following @FVAP on Twitter.

Remember, the service and sacrifice that you and your family have given guarantee that the citizens of the United States have the right to cast a ballot, so why should you be any different? Plan ahead and apply for an absentee ballot today!





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