WASHINGTON – Although the commander in chief is not on the ballot, Army voting officials say this is still a "huge year" for voting.
This year's elections will "encompass all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and 33 Senate seats" as well as state and local positions and other important things like initiatives and referendums, said Rachel Gilman, who is the Army voting action officer, Soldiers Program Branch, Adjutant General Directorate, Human Resources Command.
The mid-term election season will end with the Nov. 4 election. The last primary will be held Sept. 9 in Massachusetts. Deadlines for requesting ballots vary by state; however, the earliest for the general election is Oct. 6. States are required to send absentee ballots out 45 days in advance, so the sooner people register, the sooner they will receive their ballots.
Gilman said it's "really important" that Soldiers and Family Members are registered, request their ballots early, immediately fill them out, sign them and return them in the mail. Also, make sure the correct address is on the ballot request, she added.
Soldiers must identify their voting residence address when registering to vote. This address determines their voting precinct and for which offices and candidates they are eligible to vote.
The voting residence is the place Soldiers consider their true, fixed and permanent home. The voting residence may be the Soldiers’ home of record, but if they have changed their legal residence at any point in their military career, their voting residence also will have changed. FVAP recommends speaking with a JAG officer if Soldiers are not sure of their voting residence address.
Soldiers can vote by absentee ballot if they are not in the state or territory where they are registered to vote. This is particularly the case for Soldiers stationed overseas, Gilman pointed out.
Deployed Soldiers should request an absentee ballot at least 45 days before their state primary, she said. If they have not received their ballot from their local election official, they can complete a federal write-in absentee ballot.
Soldiers also can contact their local election office and use the federal postcard application to get that request in or find their state and its requirements at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website at www.fvap.gov
All Soldiers should check with their state, because every state has different registration requirements, she said.
Besides getting help from that website, every unit – from company level on up – has a unit voting assistance officer.
Fort Drum’s voting assistance officer is Mark H. Oldroyd. He can be reached at 772-1830.
In past elections, "we saw a lot of people who were kind of frantic because they waited a little bit too late to either request their ballot or send their ballot back – especially for those Soldiers who are deployed or overseas," Gilman said.
The Army Voting Assistance Program is a year-round program, since elections are often held in off-year cycles.
This year's voting theme is "Send Your Vote Home."
"It's a personal choice to vote, so we want to make sure everybody has that right" and the information they need to do so, Gilman said.