July 26 2016-Special edition

Democracy is NOT a Spectator Sport. 

Register to Vote NOW!

If you could play a role in selecting your next boss, would you weigh in for the candidate you wanted or just let others decide for you?  Unlike employees of most companies, every eligible voter in the military and their family can vote for the next Commander in Chief on November 8, 2016.  This election will decide not only who becomes President and your Commander in Chief, but also who appoints those who run the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, State and 12 other high-profile cabinet positions.  All House of Representative seats and one third of all Senate seats will also be voted on this election.  

In 2008, FRA testified before Congress and proposed the need to streamline overseas and absentee voting processes for military personnel.  As a result of FRA’s engagement and support, the federal 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act was enacted, which greatly improved the ability of Americans living away from their state of legal residence to vote via absentee ballot and have their votes counted.  

Voting is a right that many have fought to defend.  If you live in your state of legal residence or domicile, you can go to the DMV and register.  If you are stationed away from your state of residence you may think that your vote won’t count, but statistics show that many recent elections have actually been decided by a margin smaller than the number of absentee ballots cast by military and overseas voters.  All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the designated deadline.

In order to make sure your vote counts, you need to follow a few simple steps. Deadlines matter and you can’t wait until November to start the process.  Engage NOW to make sure you can vote in the 2016 General Election.  Don’t let others make this important choice for you.

Register to Vote/Request an Absentee Ballot:  
Complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).   Even if you have voted by absentee ballot in the past, you must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to vote in the 2016 General Election.  The FPCA is accepted by all local election officials in all U.S. states and territories.  It allows you to register to vote and request absentee ballots for all regular, primary, run-off, and special elections for federal offices (President, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives) during the course of the year in which it is submitted.

You can complete the FPCA online at FVAP.gov.  The online voting assistant will ask you questions specific to your state.   It will tell you if your state allows the FPCA to be returned electronically or if you must submit a paper copy with original signature.

Receiving Your Ballot:  Request Electronic Delivery!  
States are required to send out ballots 45 days before a regular election for federal office and states generally send out ballots at least 30 days before primary elections.  No matter which state you vote in, we encourage you to ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  Be sure to include your email address on your FPCA to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option.  You can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online for most states.

Online Resources for Researching Candidates and Issues:
Check out the
FVAP links page for helpful resources that will aid your research of candidates and issues.  Non-partisan information about candidates, their voting records, and their positions on issues are widely available and easy to obtain online. You can also read national and hometown newspapers online, or search the internet for articles and information about the candidates and their platforms.  For information about election dates and deadlines, subscribe to FVAP’s Voting Alerts (vote@fvap.gov). FVAP also shares Voting Alerts via Facebook and Twitter.

Need In-Person Help?

For in-person help, visit your nearest Installation Voter Assistance Office (IVA Office). The IVA Office can provide you with hard copies of forms, assistance in completing the forms and answers to any of your absentee voting questions. You can find contact information at the following links depending on branch of service Marine Corps, Navy, or Coast Guard.

Not Sure if You Registered to Vote in Your Home State?

You can check to see if you are registered to vote by verifying at FVAP’s Link Page. Once on that page, scroll down to State Voter Registration Verification Website. Choose the state in which you wish to vote and it will redirect you to that state's registration verification page. You can always contact your election office or FVAP directly if you have any additional questions or concerns.

Voter Education

FVAP also offers information to help you understand the absentee voting process, learn how to complete your absentee ballot request and successfully send in your absentee ballot.

Remember:  Democracy is not a spectator sport!  Let your voice be heard by voting.  Please help your fellow servicemembers get registered.

Learn more at the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s (FVAP) website at FVAP.gov 

Stephen Tassin
About OnWatch

OnWatch is a quarterly news update for active duty and Reserve personnel, written by Stephen Tassin. He recently transitioned from active duty to service as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in the Marine Corps Reserve Force, and has a personal interest in these matters. As the assistant director of Legislative Programs for the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), he’s also committed to FRA’s mission to maintain and improve the quality of life for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel and their families. He looks forward to keeping you up to date on FRA’s legislative efforts to protect and enhance your earned military and veterans’ benefits.

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