INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (AFNS) — As political campaigns heat up across the U.S., Airmen, family members and Department of Defense civilians are encouraged to be a part of the political process.
Being away from the U.S. can lead some to believe they are not able to vote in their respective state and federal elections. The federal government recognizes the unique challenges faced by Americans overseas and offers assistance to all service members, DOD civilians, family members over the age of 18 and American contractors outside of the U.S. through voting assistance officers.
Capt. Chad Atkinson-Adams, the 39th Mission Support Group executive officer and Incirlik Air Baseâ€™s installation voting assistance officer, said he encourages all eligible American citizens to be active participants in the voting process.
â€œThe first thing eligible voters must do is register to vote,â€ Atkinson-Adams said. â€œWe refer everyone to www.fvap.gov, where they can register and request ballots for either local, state or federal elections. Because they have to rely on the mail system to receive ballots, it needs to be done as soon as possible.â€
People seeking clarification on topics such as where to send their ballots, where they can vote, state of residency and other issues should contact their unit voting assistance officers. These representatives can assist with gathering information about candidates or political parties as requested, but will not offer opinions in an attempt to sway a potential voter.
â€œOur primary mission is to make sure they have the opportunity vote, not to determine who they vote for,â€ Atkinson-Adams said.
Obtaining absentee ballots can be a simple process when using www.fvap.gov. All potential voters need is their state license or identification card number and voting residence in the U.S. to get started.
â€œWe encourage Airmen to vote and make informed decisions,â€ Atkinson-Adams said. â€œVoting representatives are available to help provide additional information as requested.â€
While making an informed decision on a candidate can sometimes yield heated discussions or unintentional endorsements of political figures, service members must adhere to guidelines in the Code of Federal Regulations Part 734 – Political Activities of Federal Employees. Service members are prohibited from using their position or status as a member of the armed forces to endorse a political candidate. This includes participation in partisan activities in uniform or in any way representing the Air Force.
In the social media age, it can be easy to accidentally violate regulations that prevent federal employees from distributing literature or soliciting support for a candidate. Simply suggesting that someone â€œlikeâ€ a candidateâ€™s Facebook page could lead to disciplinary action if the initiator can easily be identified as an active-duty member,
It is also important to remember that while Airmen are free to voice opinions about political candidates, they can be held responsible for derogatory statements against elected officials. Participating in tactful conversations and being aware of surroundings when discussing political topics is highly encouraged, according to officials.
â€œI strongly encourage people to exercise this freedom that so many have fought and died for,â€ Atkinson-Adams said.
For more information about registering to vote or obtaining ballots, contact the voting assistance office.