Let this be a reinforcement of an oft-forgot proverb: never go to the government for something you’d be better off doing yourself.
Which is almost everything.
A while back, I and many other bloggers were contacted by someone from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) asking if we would be so kind as to write blog posts encouraging military spouses to register absentee to vote. I didn’t pay much attention to it because I always try and encourage absentee voting. And I hadn’t heard of FVAP before, since we always register absentee directly with our county (more on that later). But they contacted me again and explained they had a handy-dandy one-size-fits-all website where military dependents can register to vote or request absentee ballots in whatever state they are registered.
Here’s the thing: they contacted me back in July, and I said, sure, I’ll encourage voting. Then they said they’d “be in touch” later with the information they would want me to include in the blog posts. So I waited.
And I confess, a little red flag went off in my head as the election got closer and closer, and registration deadlines got nearer and nearer. But since I agreed to be part of their program, I continued to wait, thinking that surely they would be in touch any day.
And they were. And they asked us not to post anything before Sept. 27th.
Less than 40 days before the election.
So, I’ll be honest. I decided to ignore them and intended to write my own post on voting and whatnot – that I would have written back in August, mind you, had they not asked me to wait – but we had some life-crazyness here the last couple of weeks and the blog post fell through the cracks.
Turns out, that wasn’t the only thing.
Over the weekend I’ve seen several articles all saying the same thing:
(There were others, that’s just a sampling). Somehow, some way, requests for military absentee ballots are down in record numbers. Virginia said they received 92% fewer military absentee ballot requests this year than in 2008. Wisconsin isn’t sending out requested ballots, and many requests were submitted after the deadline.
And these are just the states we’ve heard about. And somehow, FVAP is connected to all of it.
Let’s think about this for a second. What is the likelihood that 92% fewer servicemembers and dependents want to vote this year than in 2008? Actually, I hope you don’t have to think about that, for any length of time. Obviously that’s not the case. However, they have gotten 92% fewer requests. The only explanation for that is a breakdown in the system. In FVAP.
The worst part? FVAP’s “acting director” (yes, there’s no actual official director for the program, and there hasn’t been for 6 months) says all systems are go and everything is operating like it should.
Which means one of two things: either she’s lying (which is possible) or she’s telling the truth and they are just that darn inefficient (more probable, in my opinion).
Point is, you probably should avoid FVAP if you want to be sure your ballot request is received. The way to do that is:
Google your county of registration’s election board (If you don’t know, just google your registered address and “county.” You should be able to find it pretty easily).
Most county election boards have websites, at the very least you can get a phone number.
Download the form they provide, note the deadlines they list, or call and have them mail you the form.
Then mail it back to them directly. Cut out the middle man.
Seriously, it might take 10 more minutes than using the FVAP website. And a stamp.
Time is running out. I know in my home state the registration deadline, for both local and absentee voters, is Oct 12. If you still need to register, do it today.
Not figuratively-today. Literally: today.