News: Absentee voting = Simple, easy process for complex decision - Individual involvement in democratic process matters
Story by Staff Sgt. Brock Jones
By Staff Sgt. Brock Jones
Multi-National Division - Baghdad
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – The fighting men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces are greatly affected when a new president takes office, making this election year an important time not only for America, but also for service members worldwide. A new president means a new commander-in-chief, which can ultimately result in new directions, policies and actions throughout the Armed Services.
As American citizens prepare to flock to voting booths in November to cast their votes for a new president, Soldiers serving overseas do not have to stand by and merely wait for a winner to be declared. Through the absentee balloting system and with the help of local unit voting assistance officers, every U.S. citizen-soldier serving outside the United States can be involved in the election and cast their votes for president.
"Having the opportunity to represent the Multi-National Division – Baghdad command as a voting assistance officer is an awesome opportunity," said Maj. Gregory Ash, a native of Baltimore, who serves as the officer in charge, deputy G-1 plans and operations, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, and who is the division's voting assistance officer. "I try my best to ensure that I give a 100-percent effort to any and everybody who comes in my section to ask about [voting]."
Voting assistance officers are responsible for raising awareness among Soldiers about the absentee voting system, assisting them with the registration process and answering any questions they may have about that process.
"I've had junior Soldiers to officers pull me in the hallway or in the dining facility and say, 'Hey, what do I need to do [to vote]?'" said Ash. "It's a simple process, but I think one of the biggest challenges that we are going to have here while in theater is just getting the word out."
"Getting the word out" about voting is what Ash and other VAOs throughout the division have been doing for the past few months. Along with the efforts of other Soldiers who spread the word because they view voting as an important act, the VAOs hope the information about how to vote while deployed is reaching more and more Soldiers every day.
"I think a lot of times, people think the process is harder than it is, when it really only takes five minutes," said Staff Sgt. Glenn Butler, a native of Mililani, Hawaii, who serves as a battle non-commissioned officer in the division fires and effects cell, 4th Inf. Div. Butler and others from the FEC voluntarily began a campaign of sorts to raise awareness about the absentee balloting process and help other Soldiers fill out and mail the absentee ballot request application.
"We're just trying to help out," Butler said. "We've signed up about 180 people in the last five weeks."
Filling out an absentee ballot request, known as a Federal Post Card Application, is the first step to voting with an absentee ballot, said Ash. The second step is the approval of the request by the Soldier's state election official, who then returns an official absentee ballot to the Soldier. The final step is for the Soldier to return his or her ballot to the local election official of their state to be counted, he said.
With such a simple process, and with voting assistance officers to help at every level of command, each Soldier has the opportunity to vote for their next commander-in-chief and get involved in one of the most important and perhaps defining processes of democracy.
"[Soldiers] are at the core of an organization that protects democracy, protects the rights that we believe in," said Sgt. Andrew Pershing, a native of Marion, Iowa, who serves as an open source intelligence analyst with the intelligence section, 4th Inf. Div. and looks forward to being able to cast his absentee ballot. "That's the reason why you vote."
The reasons Americans vote are as different as each individual citizen who casts those votes.
However, most of those reasons seem to revolve around the desire to stay involved in the processes that have been, and continue to be, essential to our democratic way of life.
"Every person, every Soldier, from the lower enlisted to the highest ranking, has a part to play in voting because every issue or every policy, every directive that comes down from our higher, our commander-in-chief, affects us all," said Ash. "Being able to have an opportunity to at least put a word in edgewise ... in the form of a vote I think is key, and at least allows a Soldier ... to say 'Hey, I made a difference – I at least voted.'"
In November, when the ballots are counted and the new commander-in-chief has been sworn-in, a new era will begin in the management of the affairs of the U.S. military. Every Soldier serving far from home has the opportunity and the responsibility to get involved in the process of choosing their next commander-in-chief through the absentee balloting system. Whether one believes that every individual vote counts or not, the participation of every individual citizen in a government "for the people, by the people," manifested by voting, is what really counts.
This work, Absentee voting = Simple, easy process for complex decision - Individual involvement in democratic process matters, by SFC Brock Jones, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.