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Sending your vote home: how it works, why it matters

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- As voting season draws near and all of the commercials on TV seem to be nothing but presidential hopefuls pandering to their audiences, there seems to be a lot of questions rising to the forefront of service members' minds: What is absentee voting? How does it work? Why should I bother? Let's tackle these one at a time.

First off, what is absentee voting?

Active military members, eligible family members, and overseas citizens are covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which assures those citizens retain their right to vote in a U.S. election, regardless of where they live. The Federal Voting Assistance Program works to ensure that those citizens eligible under the UOCAVA are aware of their voting rights and have the tools and resources to successfully do so.

How does it work?

Each state individually manages elections, so the set of rules may vary from place to place. However, the basic steps are simple: Fill out the Federal Post Card Application and mail it to your local election official in your state of legal residence; once the election official has approved the FPCA, you will receive your absentee ballot by mail. Complete and return the ballot to that official by your state's deadline, giving yourself plenty of time for the mail to be delivered for each step. Easy, right?

So, why is it important to vote?

The short answer is, because every vote counts. But for military members, your vote is your voice in choosing our next Commander in Chief. I urge you to get informed, get involved, get out and vote!

Regardless of who you think is best to lead our country, if you don't vote, your voice remains silent.

To learn more about the Voter Assistance Program, visit www.fvap.gov.