Local reps offer overseas voting assistance

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Living outside the U.S. brings many challenges in staying connected. One such challenge is ensuring people take the appropriate actions and receive accurate, relevant information in order to vote.

People living in their hometowns or in a permanent residence see notices for upcoming elections in local newspapers, are reminded via radiocasts and often have relations with people who also have a vested interest in a particular election.

People overseas, though, aren't quite as removed from the voting process as they may think.

Two Team Incirlik volunteers ensure service members and civilians here have access to the information needed to register, become informed and vote.

First Lieutenant Chad Atkinson-Adams and Master Sgt. Jeff Murphy work together as the Federal Voting Assistance Program representatives to facilitate actions and provide information related to voting. They are also charged with delegating one primary and alternate person from each unit to act as voting assistance representatives.

"Fundamentally, we help them exercise one of the defining rights we have as an American citizen, and that's the right to participate in the democratic process - to vote. ... People have fought and died for this," said Atkinson-Adams. "Voting is one of those things that defines who we are as Americans."

The installation and unit FVAP representatives offer information and resources to individuals with questions, and they also recommend referencing the FVAP website at www.fvap.gov.

The website is one simple source, said Atkinson-Adams. "It has access to register, it has access to ballots and it even provides links to information. It doesn't endorse a single candidate; it is purely an information drive. It has local and national elections for every state and territories."

As overseas inhabitants, it's important to realize that being physically removed from one's city, state and the national election processes doesn't mean one has to be completely removed from the entire process.

"A lot of times people overseas can see themselves as being too distant from the elections back at home, or not as necessarily a part of it because they are geographically separated," Atkinson-Adams stated. "I think it's just as important for anybody overseas who is an American to exercise that right just as it is for somebody living back in the States. ... Even in the States, most of us aren't based in the state that we vote in.

"They need to be a part of it. They need to do their part as a citizen and exercise that right to vote, which is why we have absentee voters," he said.

One of the pitfalls people overseas encounter is the failure to register on time to meet federal and state deadlines. Another issue is the failure to turn in an absentee ballot on time.

"That's why absentee voting always occurs much before the regular election drive back in the states. ... Absentee ballots are always turned in early because they count on having a time delay in the mail system," Atkinson-Adams said. "It's a simple process of requesting the ballot for the particular election that you wish to participate in.

"Absentee ballots are a part of making sure every vote counts. The federal government recognizes that not just in the military, but there are people that are away from home for whatever reason - vacation, school, those kinds of things," he explained, "so they have a process in place to make sure those people can vote in their districts."

Absentee ballots are the key to ensuring service members and other eligible voters are provided the opportunity to partake in the democratic process.

"We are all over the world, yet we still have a need to and a responsibility to participate in elections," Atkinson-Adams said. "That's one of your duties as a citizen, so I feel like I get something out of it when I help someone exercise that right."

For Armed Forces Voters Week June 28-July 7, FVAP representatives will be available to assist voters with the registration process to ensure they are ready and capable to vote via an absentee ballot.

For more information, contact your unit voting assistance officer or the installation voting assistance office at DSN 676-VOTE.