AL ASAD, Iraq -- As November’s general elections approach, the time for Marines to consider their vote has arrived.
After working hard to help stand up the first elections for the people of Iraq since the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, the time has now come for American forces to exercise their freedom to vote.
Even while deployed to a war zone, those who wish to vote are actively supported by the military. However, it’s not always easy for those deployed far from home to cast their vote and many wonder whether their ballots make a difference.
“Marines are strongly encouraged to take an active role (in the general elections),” said Capt. Jesse L. Sjoberg, voting assistance officer, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, “and as we know from the last (presidential) election, your vote does count.”
Each unit is assigned a voting assistance officer to aid Marines in making sure that each person is aware of voting deadlines and able to vote in a timely manner, as well as convey the significance of exercising the privilege.
“It’s important that everyone knows (about) and utilizes their right to vote,” said Sjoberg.
“Voting is extremely important,” added Cpl. Lonnie R. Mitchell, administration clerk, Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “People need to be educated about their voting options,” offered the 26-year-old from Charlotte, N. C.
According to the Federal Voter Assistance Program, Marines who want to vote here must first fill out the Federal Post Card Application. The FPCA is sent to the Marine’s home state, which in turn sends the voting ballot back to the Marine in Iraq.
“The voting process is nearly exactly the same for the military as it is for people back (in America),” said Sjoberg. “Filling out the (FPCA) is the key factor for Marines who want to vote overseas.”
Serving in a foreign country during wartime can cause a slowdown in mail delivery, which is why the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot was made available to military personnel serving overseas.
“The (FWAB) is a last resort for those who don’t get their ballot from the state in time because of mail issues,” explained Sjoberg. “Marines simply write in their choice for the national election and sent it in.”
Although the voting assistance officer is responsible for troop awareness, once the Marines have the information, it’s up to them to take action, said Sjoberg.
“I put all the information out there and give everyone ample opportunities to act with it,” remarked the 32-year-old from Omaha, Neb., “but actually casting the vote is a step that (the individual) has to take.”
“Everyone has the responsibility to vote,” emphasized Mitchell, “and being lazy isn’t an excuse.”
The deadline for overseas post card applications was Aug. 15, but it’s not too late for those in the states to send theirs in.
“The deadline for state side post cards is September 15,” remarked Sjoberg. “There will be a voter awareness week taking place in the beginning of September.”
For more information concerning voting, servicemembers can contact their unit’s voting assistance officer, or visit the Federal Voters Assistance Program website at www.fvap.gov.