By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 04, 2009) -- A Soldier's vote by absentee ballot counts, and is counted every single time, said the Army's adjutant general and senior voting officer.
"The law requires all the election officials across our great country to count every vote, even if it comes in late," said Brig. Gen. Richard P. Mustion. "They have to count every ballot as it is received. Our vote does count, and it makes a difference."
When serving in a contingency operation overseas, at an Army garrison in Europe or Asia or even inside the United States, but too far from their home of record, Soldiers who vote do so by absentee ballot. Making that process easy and accessible is the job of those who work for the Army's voting assistance program.
"Our objective is that every Soldier and eligible family member is afforded the opportunity to vote, and that they are given the opportunity to exercise that," Mustion said. "Around the world, our Soldiers have the opportunity to vote, and we have an infrastructure and a system in place to allow that to happen."
That system includes as many as 5,000 voting assistance officers in units around the world, Mustion said. The VAO is there to assist Soldiers in registering to vote and in getting their absentee ballot.
The first part of getting an absentee ballot is filling out an SF-76 Federal Post Card Application, which is available both online or through a voting assistance officer. The form requires Soldiers to have both their home address and their current mailing address -- such as their mailing address where they are deployed.
Soldiers mail the completed form to the proper election officials in the state or territory of their home of record. A VAO can help Soldiers and eligible family members in finding that address.
After receiving the FPCA, voting officials in a Soldier's home of record will send back the appropriate voting material to allow Soldiers to vote in whatever elections requested, including national elections for president, elections for senator or congressman, or even elections for local state offices.
"I believe it is important that we all exercise our right to vote," said Mustion. "It affords us the opportunity to influence those things we care deeply about and for our voice and our vote to be heard. Voting is a right that we all have and it is our inherent responsibility to exercise that right to vote so that we can help shape those key issues that face our nation."
For more information on how to vote while overseas, Soldiers may visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site at http://www.fvap.gov/, or contact their local voting assistance officer.
The next federal election is Nov. 2, 2010.