CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Only 62 percent of the Marine Corps voted in the 2000 presidential election, which was the lowest percentage in the United States Armed Forces, according to Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth B. Warford, voting action officer, Manpower Division, Headquarters Marine Corps.
"The right to vote is one of our most important civil liberties. Moreover, voting is an obligation that accompanies and protects the freedoms we enjoy. Since the birth of our nation, Americans have understood their obligations as citizens to vote," stated Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, in a recent All Marine Message.
The message, ALMAR 063/03, expresses the importance of voting, and outlines the responsibilities of a Marine Corps Voting Assistance Officer.
"It's unfortunate a lot of Marines don't exercise their opportunity to vote," said 1st Lt. Cheryl A. Armstrong, voting officer, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base.
With the upcoming 2004 presidential election, Armstrong says it is important to get the word out and encourage Marines to vote. Every battalion has a voting officer to assist the service members in the absentee voter registration process, which can be especially valuable to deployed Marines.
Absentee voting is the process of casting your vote by mail, and voters serving in the armed forces are eligible to vote with absentee ballots. All voters have to do is register for absentee voting and file their command address with their hometown registrar. Battalion voting officers can assist Marines in this process.
"There is no good excuse not to vote," said Armstrong, a Windsor, N.Y., native.
Marines who maintain a legal residence in their original hometown pay taxes to that city and state. Voting is how they help decide where their tax money goes. The same absentee registration used to register for the national elections, also registers voters for state and local elections.
The vote also helps decide where tax money goes on the national level. Armstrong also made this point: National tax money funds the Department of Defense and includes military salaries. "The people you vote into certain offices are the same people that decide how much you get paid," she said.
Dependents can also register absentee if they are away from their home voting district because of their military sponsor's duty station, she said. Sponsors can ask their voting officer about dependent registration if they have more questions.
Armstrong said all absentee voters should submit their registration paperwork by Jan. 15, 2004.
More information on the absentee voting process is available at the Federal Election Commission's Web site www.fec.gov/pages/faqabsentee.htm, and the Federal Voting Assistance Program Web site, www.fvap.gov, or by contacting your battalion voting officer.