Federal programs ease voting for those serving in military overseas

Friday, October 24, 2008

Missourians deployed overseas for military operations have several avenues available for making their votes count, even if they aren't currently registered, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said Thursday.

In a Cape Girardeau news conference that included County Clerk Kara Clark and Marine Sgt. Stephen Webber of St. Louis, Carnahan promoted federal programs designed to ease voting by the military and other state residents living outside the country.

There are, for example, more than 1,000 members of the Missouri National Guard in Kosovo, Carnahan said.

"We want to make sure those who are making a sacrifice for their country have a voice in these elections," Carnahan said.

Voters who want to receive an absentee ballot in the mail must apply by Wednesday for their request to be processed. That leaves little time for members of the Armed Services who have not applied to make the request, Carnahan noted.

But the requests may be made by a close relative such as a parent, spouse or sibling. The application may also be made by e-mail or fax to the local election authority. The ballots, once received, must be returned by 7 p.m. Nov. 4, and ballots may be e-mailed or faxed to the election officials.

Registered voters who do not receive their ballot in time or and military members who are in designated combat zones who are not registered may cast a federal write-in absentee ballot for president, vice president and members of Congress. That ballot may be e-mailed or faxed as well, as long as the election authorities receive it by 7 p.m. Nov. 4, Carnahan said.

More than 300 people eligible to vote in Cape Girardeau County who are overseas have already requested absentee ballots, Clark said. She said she has held meetings with county postmasters and managers at the Cape Girardeau mail processing facility to speed the delivery and return of the ballots.

"We want to make sure everybody can cast a ballot," Clark said.

Webber, a Marine reservist who served two tours of duty in Iraq, joined the the news conference to explain the obstacles soldiers must overcome to cast ballots. He was in Iraq in 2004 and knew he would be returning to the United States around Election Day. He requested an absentee ballot but was back home with about a week to spare before the voting.

But when he went to his local polling station, he was at first turned away because he was recorded as having received an absentee ballot. He was able to vote, however, after contacting election authorities.

In 2006 he was in Iraq again, this time in Fallujah, Webber said. He received his ballot in the mail a week before the election but knew it would never get back in time to be counted, so he did not vote.

"You give up a lot of things when you go overseas, time with your family and safety," he said. "One thing you don't give up is your right to participate in democracy."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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On the Net

There are several websites with details for voting for military members and their families.

Registration, deadlines and absentee voting: govotemissouri.com

Federal post card absentee ballot application: www.fvap.gov/resources/media/fpca.pdf

Federal write-in ballot: fvap.gov/resources/media/fwab.pdf

Where to send ballots: www.sos.mo.gov/elections/countyclerks.as...

Returning ballots to Cape Girardeau County:

To return absentee ballots to Cape Girardeau County, use the following addresses:

By mail: 1 Barton Square, Jackson, Mo., 63755

By fax: 573-204-2418

By e-mail: capegirardeau@sos.mo.gov

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