Posted on November 4th, 2016 by:

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By Sgt. Merle Miller

YANK Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Back in November 1940, when he was beginning to sweat out the draft in Des Moines, Iowa, George Smith walked two blocks from his home and voted.

This year Smith is a sergeant in an AA outfit in Calcutta, India, but, if he wants to, the chances are he still can vote in the general election in November. He probably won’t even have to walk two blocks.

The WD, through the Coordinator for Soldier Voting, Col. Robert Cutler, is trying to make it as simple as possible for Smith, and every other eligible GI who’s interested, to cast a ballot no matter where he’s stationed. Many men in actual combat won’t, of course, have time.wwii soldier voting

But the WD is issuing two soldier-voting manuals, one explaining voting for GIs in the U.S., and the other for overseas; five explanatory posters that will be distributed down to company and battery level and a Walt Disney short on voting for the Army-Navy Screen Magazine.

Naturally, neither Smith nor anybody else can vote just because he’s in the Army. To cast a state absentee ballot, which a majority of GIs overseas and almost all those stationed in the U.S. will be using, you have to be eligible under the laws of your home state.

Your eligibility will be decided by local election officials back home—on the basis of your age by Nov. 7 (21 for every state except Georgia, where it’s only 18), citizenship, place of residence and other factors, For instance, in some Southern states you’ll have had to pay your poll tax.

Smith’s home state, Iowa, is one of the 25 whose governors have already announced that their laws do not authorize the use of the Federal ballot. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Some additional states may still approve use of the Federal ballot, but even GIs from states where it is okay can only use it if they fail to receive by Oct. 1  a state absentee ballot for which they applied for Sept. 1.

Here’s the way Smith will go about voting by absentee ballot, and his case is fairly typical:

First of all, he and every other EM and officer in his outfit soon will be given a regulation post-card application for a state absentee ballot.

Most of these cards—of which the Army has had 31,000,000 printed—should be distributed to everybody in the Army in every theater in the world sometime in August and in the U.S. before the end of August.

The card simply asks for the information required by law to determine your eligibility –dope like your age, home address, voting district (if you know it), complete military address and ASN.

When Smith has filled out the application, he’ll have to have some officer or noncom not below the rank of sergeant witness his signature.
The next step for Smith is to mail his application back to his secretary of state at the state capital, which, in his case, is Des Moines. Like all other war-ballot material, it will be returned to the U.S. by high-priority air mail.

Since Smith is from a state that doesn’t authorize the Federal ballot, he ought to mail the application so that it will get back to Des Moines about the time Iowa starts sending out its state ballots. In Iowa’s case that’s Sept. 13. The dates for other states can be found by a glance at WD soldier Voting Poster 2, which very shortly will be posted on your company or battery bulletin board or perhaps simply tacked on a nearby tree.

Sending the application so that its arrival is as near that date as possible cuts down the risk of delay because of a change of station between the time the application is submitted and the time the ballot is mailed.

After Smith receives his ballot, also by high priority air mail, he should mark it and mail it back to Des Moines immediately. Even though it’s sent from Calcutta, it’s almost certain to get back to Des Moines in time to be counted—because it will be returned to the U.S. by high-priority air mail.

Thus Smith has voted.

In general, the procedure Smith followed will be the same for most registered GIs casting state absentee ballots. Dates and details may vary, and again they can be checked by studying Soldier Voting Poster 2.

GIs from Washington, D.C., like District of Columbia civilians, are unable to vote either in person or by absentee ballot. In New Mexico and Kentucky, cases are pending to determine whether state absentee ballots are okay. When these cases are decided, the WD will let you know the results. All the other 46 states provide absentee ballots.

Of course, the chance are that a lot of GIs won’t know whether they’re eligible to vote by absentee ballot or even whether they’re registered back home.wwii soldier absentee voting

In 36 states, simply sending in an application or voting a ballot is enough for registration. However, you have to take an extra step if you are not registered and are from one of the following 12 states: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, South Carolina and West Virginia.

If you’re from one of these states and don’t know whether you’re registered or have any other doubt about your eligibility to vote, write a V-mail letter to the secretary of state in the state capital, or to your local election official00if you know who he is.  List your full name, serial number, military unit and APO. Then, in the message blank, write a couple of paragraphs like these:

“I am a citizen of the U.S. for ————– years preceding the general election of November 1944 my home residence has been in in the state of ———– for ———– years preceding such election my home residence has been in the city, town or village of ————, in the county of ————-, at (street and number, if any, or rural route), My voting district to the best of my knowledge is ———–.

“I want to know if I’m eligible to vote by state absentee ballot in the November election and, if not, whether I can become eligible now.”

The time between the day you read this and the elections will be short. So it’s best to get this V-Mail written and sent as soon as possible.

GIs who are still in doubt as to what exactly they should do to vote—and a lot of us will be—should get in touch with the Soldier Voting officers of their outfits. One will be appointed for every military organization down to company and battery level.

In addition, the WD posters will answer a lot of questions that will be cropping up. If you don’t see the posters, ask the Soldier Voting officer where they are. The first should be available now, and the second very shortly.

The first poster just outlines general information on voting.

The second poster contains specific dope on requirements for voting by state absentee ballot in the different states.

The third poster is a huge map of the U.S. showing every Congressional district in the country and is designed to help men from states that authorize use of the Federal ballot, who—like most of us—aren’t sure what district they’re from.

The fourth poster lists, in addition to the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, the senatorial and congressional nominees in states whose laws allow the Federal ballot to be used (giving their names, addresses, party affiliations and the offices for which they’ve been nominated). As of right now, the governors of 15 states have certified that use of the Federal ballot is okay under their laws: California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Vermont.

If others are added to the list they will be announced by the WD.

The fifth poster outlines just what GIs who are eligible to use the Federal ballot must do.

But remember that even if you live in a state that recognizes the Federal ballot you won’t be able to get one unless you have applied for a state absentee ballot before Sept. 1 and have not received it by Oct. 1.

Whether you vote by Federal ballot or by state absentee ballot, secrecy is a fundamental principle of a free election. That means you ought to mark your ballot so that no one else can see how you vote.

Nobody will try to influence the way you vote. Nobody will march you to a poll. The WD policy is strict impartiality toward the election. If you’re eligible and want to vote—okay, go ahead.

An American soldier is an American citizen.

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