MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – In the last election cycle, only 63 percent of military ballots were returned to their local election officials on time, according to a study conducted by the Federal Voting Assistance Program.<br /> <br /> In an effort to encourage timely voting among service members and their families this election year, the Department of Defense has designated the week of Sept. 27 through Oct. 4 as Absentee Voting Week.<br /> <br /> Absentee Voting Week was established in 2002 with a goal to promote military and overseas voting awareness and encourage voters to request and receive absentee ballots from the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, www.fvap.gov. <br /> <br /> During the week, “all eligible voters including Marines, sailors, civilian Marines and their eligible family members, are encouraged to return their completed absentee ballots, which will allow sufficient time for the ballots to be mailed and counted in their state,” according to Marine Administrative Message 470/12.<br /> <br /> Installation and unit voting assistance officers are working double-time to get the word out to 100 percent of eligible voters through various methods of promotion, said Dora Rodriguez, the deputy adjutant and assistant installation voting officer for Marine Corps Installations- West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.<br /> <br /> “We are hitting all avenues to ensure maximum voter participation, from attending safety stand downs, staff meetings and platoon formations to sending mass emails to leadership and hanging informational posters in high traffic areas,” said Rodriguez.<br /> <br /> Voting assistance officers will also be on hand to help voters complete necessary forms and offer mailing assistance for voting materials.<br /> <br /> Eligible voters who have not received their state absentee ballots by Absentee Voting Week should use the federal write-in absentee ballot as a substitute.<br /> <br /> “A federal write-in absentee ballot is basically a back-up ballot, said Rodriguez. “ It is postage-free and can be used by an individual who requests an absentee ballot and never receives it. Eligible voters can visit their unit voting officer or the Installation Voter Assistance Office in Building 1160 to pick a form if needed.”<br /> <br /> In the event a voter receives their absentee ballot after already submitting the FWAB, they should also complete and return the received ballot immediately, added Rodriguez.<br /> <br /> Service members who are going on deployment and will not have access to regular mail service between now and Election Day should complete and mail their FWAB immediately to ensure their vote arrives on time and is counted properly.<br /> <br /> Service members, government civilians and their families should do whatever is necessary to ensure their vote counts in this election, said Rodriguez.<br /> <br /> “Having this program is important because voting is the future of our country, and participation is crucial to its success,” said Rodriguez. “You have to vote to make a difference, and we’re here to make sure everyone gets that opportunity.”<br /> <br /> For additional information, contact the Installation Voter Assistance Office at (760) 763-8305, or send an email to email@example.com.