ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- When your current residence is a tent in the mountains of Afghanistan, it can be a challenge to participate in an election on the other side of the world.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp came to Robins Air Force Base Tuesday to tell airmen how his office has made it easier for military personnel serving overseas to vote.
Kemp explained that previously deployed military members had to request an absentee ballot, which would be mailed to them, and therein was the challenge. The ballot could be going to some remote military base or a ship at sea. By the time the ballot got there, service members couldn’t always count on the fact that it would get back in time to be counted, and many would just skip voting.
“The problem is a lot of times many people might not be making the request early enough,” Kemp said while speaking to about 70 airmen from the 116th Air Control Wing. “You can see the logistics of trying to get a ballot over there.”
Now, overseas military members, as well as civilians overseas, can access their ballot electronically. They still have to mail it back, but it cuts out the hurdle of mailing the ballot to them. Kemp said it cuts the time for the process in half.
Chief Master Sgt. Lorenzo Anastasie, command chief of the 116th Air Control Wing, said the change is a big help for deployed military members.
“Sometimes we are deployed in different locations across the world, and being able to have this at our fingertips at a keyboard helps out tremendously and alleviates those concerns in the back of an airman’s mind,” he said.
For the March 6 presidential primary, starting Saturday airmen will be able to access their absentee ballot at the Secretary of State’s website, sos.ga.gov, where they can also watch two tutorial videos. They should contact their local election office to request a ballot, then they will be able to access it electronically on the website. They can then print it, mark it and mail it back. Once they sign up, they will automatically be sent ballots for every election during the year.
Kemp also visited military bases in Atlanta and Savannah on Tuesday to make military members aware of how they can vote overseas. The system first was used in the 2010 general election, and Kemp said 500 to 600 overseas voters, nearly all military members, cast ballots from 50 countries. He is hoping for more participation this year by making military members more aware of electronic ballot access.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.