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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Absentee ballots easy to use: U.S. voting promoter


Staff writer

With the primaries continuing, it is important that Americans living abroad learn how to cast absentee ballots if they want to play a role in electing the next U.S. president in November, Polli Brunelli, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, said Friday.

That's why Brunelli and a colleague are traveling around the world to educate U.S. expatriates and other citizens about the absentee voting process.

"The right to vote is an opportunity for people to participate in the democratic process. It's a powerful vehicle," said Brunelli, who is visiting Japan to spread the word.

The process is quite simple, she said. First you download a universal registration form from the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Web site — www.fvap.gov — then you send the signed and completed form via regular mail to your local election office in the U.S., which should send back a blank ballot for you to fill out and return.

Whether applications for voter registration and ballots can be submitted by other means varies by state, as do the deadlines. But in general, requests for ballots should be submitted at least 45 days before the election. Deadlines for ballots, however, vary. For primaries, consult state authorities.

According to the FVAP, which is nonpartisan and operated by the Department of Defense, there are approximately 6 million potential voters living outside the U.S.

In the 2004 presidential election, overseas turnout came to 73 percent for military personnel, 77 percent for federal employees and 53 percent for other U.S. citizens.

There seems to be "increased interest" in absentee voting this year, Brunelli said. There were 1,238,000 individual accesses of the FVAP Web site in January compared with 260,000 in the same period in 2004, she said.



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