MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Voting Assistance Officers aboard Camp Pendleton are encouraging service members to utilize their right to vote during Armed Forces and Overseas Citizens Voters Week, June 28 through July 7. This week focuses on increasing voter awareness throughout military installations and providing federal post card application assistance to eligible voters.
The goals are to contact 100 percent of the eligible voting population to provide any information or assistance required during the election process, explain the importance of registering early and encourage those not currently registered to participate in the voting process, according to the Marine Administrative message 327/12.
For many servicemembers, the 2012 Presidential Elections will be a first time experience and many have little understanding how to complete the application process.
"I haven't registered to vote yet because I don't know how to," said 18-year-old Pfc. Cara M. Freeman, a special assistant to the United States attorney with Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
The Installation Voter Assistance Office (IVAO) was developed to provide voting applications, forms, guides and computer access to service members inquiring about the voting process, according to MARADMIN 384/11.
"We assist service members, their family members, contractors and really anyone with base access," said Dora Rodriguez, the assistant installation voting officer with MCI - West, MCB Camp Pendleton. "All you have to do is sit down, register and do your part."
Out-of-state residents, like Freeman who is originally from Illinois, will need to request an absentee ballot for their respective state of residence.
"Even though the forms are self-explanatory, we want to make sure that eligible voters fill out the applications correctly so that (the forms) don't get returned after being mailed in," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez credits her father and his strong opinions about voting as being the reason she has developed a passion for helping others vote.
"All my father ever did was encourage voting," said Rodriguez. "He said, 'You can’t be an actual American and participate in any of the decision making until you vote.’”
The 57th Presidential elections, November 6, will include the president and vice president positions, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 U.S. Senators, 13 state and territorial governors, and several state and local officials.
"(Voting) is a freedom that we have," said Rodriguez. "You should do it because you're loyal to your country and because you love your country."