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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

Absentee ballots, registration key for Soldiers wanting to vote

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Absentee ballots are key for Soldiers who often PCS or deploy, said Richard Madden, installation voting assistance officer.

“You can’t go down to Muscogee County and vote for the state of Texas,” he said. “You have to be a resident of that state in order to vote in that state. So for Soldiers, the key is to know when the elections are going to be, ensure that you are registered to vote and that you send your registration forms in on time.”

Soldiers should go to their unit’s voting assistance officer to get assistance with voting. These officers distribute information about voting from his office, he said.

“If you’re not registered to vote, then you need to see your voting assistance officer at your unit and they can assist you with the appropriate forms,” Madden said.

Soldiers who deploy — they are covered, too.

“For Soldiers that are deployed, at Fort Benning we give them a briefing prior to deploying and when they are coming back, especially if that particular year is a voting year,” he said. “We provide them with the necessary documents so they can request an absentee ballot.”

He said deployed Soldiers also have a voting assistance officer while deployed overseas to answer their voting questions.

Those deploying overseas can also look at the Federal Voting Assistance Program for more information, he said.

According to the FVAP website, it administers the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, enacted in 1986, as well as the federal responsibilities of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

The UOCAVA gives UOCAVA citizens the ability to register and vote absentee in elections for federal offices, according to the Department of Justice website.

The National Voter Registration Act requires individuals are given the opportunity to register to vote or “receiving services or assistance at any office designated as a voter registration agency,” according to the website.

With FVAP, active-duty Soldiers are eligible to vote in local, state and federal elections. Spouses and children 18 and older are also eligible to vote absentee. For more information, visit www.fvap.gov.

Columbus residents For Muscogee County residents, qualifications for registering to vote in Columbus, according to the Columbus Election and Registration Office’s website, are: be a citizen of the United States, be a legal resident of Muscogee County, be at least 17 and a half to register and 18 to vote, not be serving a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral degradation and not be found mentally incompetent by a judge.

Georgia residents can register to vote by mail-in forms, which can be found at any library or at www.columbusga.org/elections/ or at the Government Center Elections Office. Georgia residents can also determine if they are registered to vote by visiting www.sos.georgia.gov/MVP/Login.aspx. The site will also give individuals their poll location.

According to the Columbus Election and Registration Office’s website, once registered, on the day of election individuals must “present one of the approved forms of identification: Georgia driver’s license, valid Georgia identification card, valid U.S. passport, valid employee identification card containing a photograph issued by any branch, department, agency or entity of the United States government, this state, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of this state; valid U.S. military identification card with a photograph or valid tribal identification card containing a photograph.”

If you are not registered to vote but want to, the Georgia deadline for registering is the fifth Monday prior to the election you want to vote in.

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