Voting During Military Service
Military service is a challenging and important experience for service members and their loved ones, and sometimes active service can make relatively simple tasks like voting more difficult. Fortunately, for service members and their families, there are military voting laws and systems in place to ensure their votes are counted and their voices are heard.
Military Voting History: UOCAVA and MOVE
In 1986, Congress enacted the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). This act makes sure U.S. citizens who are abroad and/or serving in the uniformed services have the right and ability to vote. However, UOCAVA did not necessarily make active duty military voting any easier.
In order to give service members and citizens overseas more time to request, receive, and return their ballots, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE) in 2009. Since MOVE was passed, voting rates among members of the uniformed services and citizens overseas have increased.
While these laws have made voting easier than ever for service members and their families, it is still important to understand how members of the military and their loved ones can make use of these programs.
Members of the military can vote where they are stationed, usually by mailing in an absentee ballot. Although the process of absentee voting may take more or less time depending on where a service member is in the world, the process for obtaining and mailing in a ballot is largely the same regardless of location.
Registering to vote and requesting ballots
Different states have different voting laws and these laws can affect a service member's voting process. Because of the differences in states' voting laws, the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) recommends service members and their family members submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).
The FPCA is a form that allows service members, their families, and U.S. citizens abroad to both register to vote and to request election ballots from anywhere in the world. After the form has been submitted and accepted by the voter's local election office, an absentee ballot will be mailed to the address provided.
Once the absentee ballot has been properly filled out, it can be mailed back to the absentee's local election office. Giving the mail service enough time to process the ballot is critical, so it is wise to provide as much time as possible to the ballots to be processed and counted.
Even though the U.S. government has made efforts to make voting easier for members of the military, the uniformed service, and their families, navigating the legal realm of state voting laws can be difficult. A legal professional who is experienced with the lives of those in the uniformed services and with state voting laws could be a valuable resource.