MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.– -- Voting has always played a big part in our nation’s history. From the 1971 Constitutional Amendment allowing draft-aged Americans the right to vote to the Florida recount during the 2000 presidential election, this voice-enabling right should not be overlooked by members of the armed forces.
For many Marines, not knowing how to vote or how to properly fill out the paperwork can be a barrier, but a Unit Voting Assistance Officer is readily available to help Marines, sailors and their family members with the process.
“Every unit has a voting assistance officer who can assist a Marine and their family at any time,” said Lt. Col. Elaine M. Hensen, Unit Voting Assistance Officer, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF. “A lot of the confusion comes from not knowing which state to vote from since Marines move around a lot. It’s usually your home of record or where you establish your residency.”
With many units gearing up to redeploy, UVAOs provide voting briefs before deployments to inform Marines before they leave the country.
“Getting educated about voting is what matters in the long range of things,” Hensen explained. “If Marines are given the opportunity and materials, then maybe more will register to vote. Knowledge is power and although many might be skeptical, one vote really can make a difference.”
Marines who will be deployed during election season can apply for an absentee ballot and register to vote by going to the UVAO or by filling out a federal post card application. Along with looking up a home state mailing address on where to send the ballot, the voting officer can also help with questions on how to fill out the forms.
“Forward-deployed units have a voting officer, usually the adjutant, who takes the voting materials out there with them,” Hensen said. “You can go to them and request a voter registration card or you can go onto (the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site), www.fvap.gov, and look up the voting requirements for your state.”
For Marines who joined the Corps out of high school and never got a chance to vote in an election, Hensen encourages them to find out when each state is having its election and register in time to make their vote count.
“On the voting registration form, I didn’t know how to fill out some of the information,” said Lance Cpl. Mercedes P. Dahmen, a native of Viequez, Puerto Rico and a Headquarters and Support Company administrative clerk, II MHG. “Lt. Col. Hensen pointed out some of the information I needed in the voting manual, and I sent it in right away. I was able to participate in the upcoming elections after I received my voter registration card.”
“Part of the responsibilities of the voting officers is to coordinate voting activities on the installation and to distribute voting materials,” said Michael P. Downs, head Voting Officer of the Marine Corps.
“It is the commandant’s goal to achieve and document 100 percent contact with Marines, their family members and other eligible voters,” said Downs. “Our voting program and initiatives must ensure everyone has the opportunity to vote.”