(Note: The below article is from the Aug 97 edition of Navy "All Hands" Magazine. While it is written with Navy personnel in mind, for the most part, the information is applicable for members of all of the services.
You have a fundamental right to choose those who will represent you and make the
decisions that affect your life and career. That right does not diminish as the distance from the voting booth
Congress passed The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens AbsenteeVoting Act Aug. 15, 1986. This bill consolidated previous federal acts affecting U.S. military personnel and civilians overseas and provides for a federal write-in absentee ballot for use in general elections for federal offices only.
To be eligible to use the federal write-in ballot, voters must be overseas (all FPO addresses are eligible) and must have made timely application for their state absentee ballot.
Overseas citizens have the right to vote in federal elections in the state in which they resided before going abroad, even if they no longer maintain a residence in that state.
Military personnel and family members eligible to vote may vote absentee from within and out of the United States.
Each state accepts the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) form as a request for registration and ballot. The FPCA is sent to overseas corporations, organizations, military installations and U.S. Embassies and consulates for regions in which U.S. citizens reside.
The timely receipt of absentee ballots continues to be a major problem among military members, their family members and overseas civilians attempting to vote.
Ideally, election officials should mail absentee ballots to overseas addresses 45 days before the election to insure the ballot's timely return, or 45 days before the deadline for the receipt of voted absentee ballots if the deadline is other than election day.
Some states have enacted legislation that allows ballots to be mailed earlier; others have extended the deadlines for the receipt of voted ballots to a specified number of days after the election. Voters are advised to have the voting envelope hand stamped so a date appears on the envelope.
Twenty-one states have authorized special blank absentee ballots for military members and others who have difficulty voting with regular absentee ballots. The states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In these states, absentee ballots are available from local election officials 20 to 90 days before the election. Check the Voting Assistance Guide.
A Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) has been authorized to provide an alternative to overseas voters, civilian and military who do not receive the regular state absentee ballot. To be eligible for this ballot, voters must have made timely application for the regular absentee ballot.
The FWAB would be submitted and processed in the manner provided by law for absentee ballots in the state involved. A voter must apply for a regular absentee ballot which must be received by local election officials not less than 30 days before the general election. If overseas voters don't receive the regular state ballot in time, they may use the FWAB and write in the name of the candidate or write in the name of a political party. Contact your voting assistance officer if need an FPCA or FWAB or if you have questions about voting.
- U.S. Military