Absentee Voting Improvements for Military Families

By Candace Wheeler, Government Relations Deputy Director

Now that PCS season has come and gone, there is one thing that often gets overlooked in the long “to-do” list - registering to vote at the next duty station or updating absentee voting information. Although voting is always important, with a Presidential election in November, this task is time sensitive.

Due to a mobile lifestyle, military families often find themselves part of many communities. You may vote where you grew up and are familiar with those running for local office. Or you may choose to vote in your current community on issues that directly affect your family. The ability to make changes at the local level often influences where military families choose to vote. The important thing to remember is that in many cases, the choice of where you vote is yours.

The National Military Family Association has been working hard to guarantee your ability to vote where you choose, be it locally or through an absentee ballot. In recent years, great strides have been made to improve absentee voting for service members and military families. Our Association is proud of the role we played to bring about the passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009. This federal legislation was an important step toward alleviating many of the voting issues faced by military families. The MOVE Act ensures that military service members, their families, and overseas Americans will have enough time to vote by:

  • Requiring election officials to send absentee ballots at least 45 days prior to an election.
  • Allowing online transmission of blank ballots and voting materials.
  • Removing the cumbersome notarization and witness requirements.

Our Association has long recognized that service members and their families often vote by absentee ballot within the United States as well as overseas. It is not uncommon for military families to be living in one duty location, with the service member and spouse each voting in a separate state. This complicates the absentee voting process and highlights the need for voting support.  

The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is the DoD agency responsible for assisting military and overseas voters, and for implementing MOVE protections. FVAP streamlines the voting process by providing tools that help military families and overseas voters:

  • Notify election officials of voters’ frequent changes of address
  • Assist voters  in completing absentee voting materials properly
  • Obtain ballots or ballot applications 
  • Overcome difficulties in registering to vote from abroad 
  • Offer alternatives to slow mail delivery times

In addition to these helpful tools, the FVAP website also provides answers to frequently asked questions by the military community and overseas voters.

  • Where do I send my Voter Registration/Absentee Ballot Request? Request forms must be completed, printed, signed, dated and mailed directly to the local election official. Some states allow requests to be faxed or email to the local election office.
  • When is the best time to apply for an absentee ballot? We recommend that you register to vote/request an absentee ballot in January of each year, or at least 90 days before Election Day.
  • When should I receive my ballot? States and territories are required to mail ballots at least 45 days before an election. If you have not received your ballot 30 days before the election, contact your local election official by visiting your state election site.
  • What happens if I do not receive a ballot from my local election office? If you requested an absentee ballot but have not received one close to Election Day, you can still vote by using the back-up Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) available online at FVAP or through your installation Voting Assistance Office.
  • Where is my "legal voting residence"?  The state or territory where you last resided prior to entering military service or the state or territory you claim as your legal residence.

The National Military Family Association has worked hard to improve absentee voting for military service members and their families. We remain committed to advocating for your right to vote, wherever you are stationed, and to have your vote counted! 
 
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