Voting No Matter Where You Are

Voting No Matter Where You Are

Voting is a civic duty for all Americans, but sometimes it can be tough for military members to cast their ballot. Being away from your home state can make the process seem daunting, but luckily there are agencies in place to help.

In 1986, Congress saw a need to protect the right to vote for our service members and their families. They passed the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires that states and territories allow certain groups of citizens to vote for federal elections in absentee–most states have extended this to local and state elections as well. People eligible for absentee voting under this act include active members of the Uniformed Services or the Merchant Marine, their families, and any U.S. citizen residing outside the country. In certain circumstances, National Guard members on activated state orders are also eligible.

The first place everyone should visit is the Federal Voting Assistance Program website. This is a one-stop-shop voting information by state, including dates for primaries, runoffs, and elections. Regardless of voting status, in-person or absentee, everyone will find useful information on their state. Most importantly, they recommend dates for applying for an absentee ballot, and what to do should your ballot not arrive in time. The Federal Voting Assistance Program recommends returning your absentee ballot at least 11 days prior to the election if you are home in the states, or 30 if you are overseas.

For Army National Guard members or other South Dakota residents, the Secretary of State website maintains a Voter Information Portal that allows you to look up your registration data, including party affiliation, district you belong to, and where your polling place is located. If you’ve requested an absentee ballot, that information will also be available. The Voter Information Portal is located here.

For active duty members stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, most units will have a designated voting assistance volunteer who can provide information or support to families who request it. There are also voting assistance officers at the Airman & Family Readiness Center located in the Rushmore Center on base. Their commercial number is 605-385-4664.