Overseas military will have to register again to get ballots this year
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes online edition, Thursday, January 7, 2010
WASHINGTON — Military members serving overseas will have to resubmit their voter registration this year if they hope to cast a ballot in the November midterm elections.
Veterans, military dependents and other U.S. civilians living overseas will have to as well. Changes in federal law mandate that voters must request a new absentee ballot each year in order to participate in state and federal elections, instead of the previous practice of requiring new applications only every few years.
“The message is for military voters to send in that (federal postcard application) as soon as possible, because they won’t be able to vote without it,” said Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. “You need to submit a new postcard every year, and every time you change duty stations, and every time you move.”
States can opt to extend that application period further out, but aren’t obligated to do so, Carey said. The federal law guarantees that any voters who resubmit their paperwork every year will be provided ballots. Because of questions over whether states will change or challenge deadlines, Carey said the FVAP is pushing for all overseas voters to update their paperwork.
The changes came as part of the recently passed Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act, which also requires military bases to establish more voting assistance facilities and local election officials to mail out absentee ballots at least 45 days before an election.
But Carey said even with those changes military voters in Iraq, Afghanistan or other overseas locations won’t be able to receive a ballot unless they send in their current address information to their local election offices early this year.