Voting During Military Service

Active military service can sometimes make relatively simple tasks like voting more difficult. Fortunately, for service members and their families, military voting laws and systems are in place to ensure their votes count.

In 1986, Congress enacted the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). This act ensures that U.S. citizens abroad or serving in the uniformed services have the right and ability to vote. But the UOCAVA did not make active-duty military voting easier.

In 2009, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE). This law gave service members and citizens living overseas more time to request, receive, and return their ballots. Since the federal government passed MOVE, voting rates among members of the uniformed services and eligible family members overseas have increased.

These laws have made voting more accessible for service members and their families.

This article can help you understand how military members and their loved ones can use these programs.

Absentee Voting

Most registered military voters vote via absentee ballot. Although the process may take longer for military personnel, it's the same regardless of location. Military voters must still submit an absentee ballot request. Election officials will confirm their eligibility and then mail in their absentee ballots.

The service member must complete and return the forms to the election office in their jurisdiction. Their military spouse can do the same.

Military personnel can still vote in person. They would only cast an absentee ballot if they could not get to a polling place.

Contact a voting assistance officer if you are in the military and run into problems with absentee voting.

Registering to Vote and Requesting Ballots

States have different voting laws, which can affect a service member's voting process. Because of these various laws, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recommends that service members and their families submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).

The FPCA is a form that allows service members, military families, and U.S. citizens abroad to register to vote and to request election ballots from anywhere in the world. Once the voter submits their form and their local election office receives it, election officials will mail an absentee ballot to the voter's address.

Submitting Ballots

Registered voters in the military who vote via an absentee ballot should send paperwork early. It will take the postal service time to deliver the paperwork. If you're casting an absentee ballot, you don't want to wait until the last minute to send your forms to the local election office.

Even though the U.S. government has made efforts to make voting easier for military members, navigating state and federal voting laws can be challenging. A legal professional with experience handling voting issues for people in the military may be a valuable resource.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own — Get a Lawyer's Help

If you're in the armed forces and are having trouble voting, contact an experienced civil rights lawyer. They can help you understand your options and protect your rights.

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