Who will get your vote this election season?
No one if you don’t register. And it’s easy to do so. That’s according to Brian Griffiths, senior program analyst with the Federal Voter Assistance Program with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who spoke to approximately 55 Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians here, March 9.
Griffiths addressed the group at a voter assistance officer workshop that prepared those in attendance to inform Soldiers of their units and organizations about the basics of registering to vote.
Fort Irwin Voting Assistance Officer David Johnson coordinated the workshop and said the VAOs are non-partisan and now have a greater understanding on how to help Soldiers fill out forms and answer questions about registering.
It all begins with filling out the Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The VAOs can either provide a printed copy or direct Soldiers and their family members to a website to acquire one. That website is www.fvap.gov.
The FPCA allows servicemembers, spouses, dependents and civilians to input their voting address and their mailing address. The voting address is where the person would like to vote; the mailing address will receive the ballots. As Griffiths explained, a servicemember can maintain the same voting address throughout a military profession, whether it’s one enlistment or a 30-year career. As a servicemember changes duty stations (stateside or overseas), the mailing address changes – however, the mailing address must be updated with a FPCA.
Griffiths recommends filling out a FPCA every year to make sure the addresses stay updated.
“We encourage people do that every year,” Griffiths said. “The reason we do that is because most states, if they accept the FPCA [and] if you submit it in January, it will be good for the entire calendar year. So, the voter will be able to get ballots for every election for which they’re eligible to vote in for that calendar year.”
Griffiths emphasized the FVAP website is user friendly and allows Soldiers to begin the registration by clicking on “Voter Start Here.”
“All they have to do is click on their state of residence and it will walk them through the entire process of completing that FPCA,” Griffiths said. “[It] will prompt the voter to complete their information. At that point all they have to do is print the form, sign the form – it has to be signed and dated – and send it back to their local election official and they will be good to go.”
There may be unique situations for some voters, thus talking to their unit VAO is encouraged. All units are required to have a VAO.
Johnson explained that his goal is to make sure Soldiers are apprised of and understand the registration process, so they can participate in voting if they desire.
“[If] you do care what happens in the country, no matter where you are, you should be able to cast your vote and express who you want to basically make the decisions they believe in,” Johnson said.