Voting assistance officers stand ready to help


FPCA can help family members and civilians too

This being an election year, Soldiers, along with every other American, will have a crucial choice to make come Nov. 8: “Do I vote, or do I not?”

The Army doesn’t require Soldiers to vote in the presidential election. But the Army is making sure that for those Soldiers who want to take advantage of the freedom they signed up to defend, they can cast a vote from wherever they are in the world.

Rachel Gilman, who manages the Army Voting Assistance Program, oversees the more than 3,000 voting assistance officers Army-wide who are out on the front lines providing Soldiers the tools and information they need to get registered to vote, and to get a ballot for the upcoming election delivered into their hands.


“Our program really focuses on awareness, assistance, providing education, and really training voters about where to go and what information they need,” Gilman said. “Voting is a very personal choice. If they decide to vote, we are there to help and assist them. We don’t force people to vote. If somebody wants to make changes on issues that are important in their hometowns and communities, that’s what we are there to provide assistance about.”

Soldiers who want to vote in November should act now, Gilman said. The way to do that is to seek out a unit voting assistance officer, whether stateside, forward-stationed overseas, or deployed, and then fill out a Federal Post Card Application.

“The FPCA … that’s your form, your go-to form,” for voting, Gilman said.

The FPCA, also known as GSA Standard Form 76, starts the process of getting a Soldier registered to vote in their correct voting district. It also lets the election officials from their voting district know where to send their ballot. The FPCA is not just for Solders, but for any voter who needs to cast a ballot when they are away from where they would normally vote.

To get the FPCA, Soldiers can download it from the Federal Voting Assistance Program website at FVAP.gov, or visit a voting assistance officer wherever they are stationed.
The voting assistance officer can also help Soldiers determine what state, and what location within that state, is their official voting district. That information is required on the FPCA. Soldiers can also use the FVAP website to make that determination.

“There is a great voting wizard there that can help them,” Gilman said.

Soldiers who are interested in voting this November can look on the FVAP.gov website to determine deadlines for when they can register in their state, when they should request a ballot, and when they have to mail that ballot back to their voting official. Every state has different requirements, Gilman said, but kicking off the process now is better than waiting.
“It’s really important, especially for overseas voters and those Soldiers who are deployed. Once they receive their ballot, it’s really important that they immediately fill it out and send it back due to the mailing time,” she said.

The Army won’t make Soldiers vote, or even register to vote, Gilman said. But she thinks it’s important that they do so — preserving the right to vote, she said, is one of the reasons that Soldiers serve in the first place.

“I think it’s really important for Soldiers to vote, because it’s a freedom they defend,” Gilman said. “I think it’s an opportunity to have their voices heard. It’s important for them if they want to change issues in their communities, their home towns, for their families. I think it’s very important that they have their voices heard.”

According to a 2014 Federal Voting Assistance Program report to Congress, in 2014, 69 percent of the active-duty Army was registered to vote, compared with 65 percent of the civilian population.
When it comes to actually voting, about 20 percent of active-duty Soldiers voted in the 2014 election, while 42 percent of the general population voted.


GET ASSISTANCE
For assistance contact the Wiesbaden Voting Assistance Officer, Ivan Centola at DSN 548-1321 or ivan.a.centola.civ@mail.mil