With the election just two months away and all the discussions swirling about the mail service and ballots getting to election officials in time, troops and their families overseas now have an advantage.
As of this week, they have access to the free expedited mail service from overseas, and tracking of their absentee ballot.
This means that each voted ballot dropped off at a military post office overseas will receive the Label 11-DoD, automatically giving that ballot expedited delivery. Make sure you keep that part of the label with the tracking number that allows you to track your ballot.
The service has been in place in each of the election years since 2010, for the two months before the general election. Only overseas military and their family members are allowed to use the service, and the ballots must be mailed from military post offices overseas.
The Military Postal Service Agency distributes the labels overseas to the post offices and pays for the postage.
But first things first. There’s still time to register to vote, if you haven’t done so. You can do that, and request your absentee ballot at the same time by using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which is available from your unit’s voting assistance officer, your installation voting assistance office, or you can download it at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website, FVAP.gov. Click on your state on the map, to find information, deadlines and links to the forms you can download, including the FPCA.
It’s best to use the FCPA, because that ensures your state will mail your absentee ballot at least 45 days before the election, as required by law.
Even if you registered to vote years ago, you must still request your absentee ballot. If you’ve moved, notify your local election official. You can use the FCPA to do that.
There are a variety of resources on FVAP.gov site, including information about how to locate your local election official, state voting guidelines and election dates and guidelines; and installation voting assistance office locations.
FVAP was created to help make service members, their families and overseas voters aware of their right to vote, even when away from their polling place, and to make sure they have the tools and resources to do so from anywhere in the world.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.