We all know it's an election year, even those of us watching AFN commercials instead of politically charged ones on cable. But here's the important question, dear military spouse: Are you registered to vote?
Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook regularly prompt us to register or request an absentee ballot, but those notices usually default to the state from which you're logging into the site. For military spouses, this can get confusing.
Hear me, please. Voting is important. It's a right and a responsibility. It's something women, in particular, can celebrate this year, with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
But voting yourself may not be enough. You may want to help others learn how important it is to vote, how they can vote or -- in the case of new military spouses -- where they should register to vote. Here are ways you can encourage others to vote, without taking sides.
Register to Vote
First, make sure you are registered to vote. This gets complicated sometimes as military spouses keep moving. Here's a quick refresher:
According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, military spouses have three options on where to vote. You can retain your sponsor's residency or domicile; keep your own current, established one; or take steps to make your current state your residency or domicile.
You cannot pick a random state, and you should check the deadlines. Because while you may want to vote in the state you just moved to, you may have missed the cutoff. So double-check all the dates.
There are a few organizations sending reminder postcards to registered voters, emphasizing the importance of voting this year. The messages are nonpartisan in nature and focus on getting more people to vote. There are a few options on organizations you can join, including Postcards for Swing States and MomsRising.
Army spouse Margarita Cambest filled out cards through the Postcards for Swing States program. "It's an uncertain time for a lot of people right now, but I think the pandemic shouldn't keep anyone from accessing their ballots and knowing how they can perform their civic duty," she said. "Whether that be voting by mail or absentee (as many military families already do), dropping off ballots at drop-off boxes or voting in-person, I wanted people to know that there are plenty of ways people can exercise their rights safely. With so many choices, there really isn't a reason why anyone should let this election go by without doing their part."
Rock the Vote
For the last 30 years, Rock the Vote has used popular cultural influences to build the political power of the younger generations. From music to art to technology, the focus has been on young voters. This year, Millennials and Generation Z will make up almost 40% of voters.
You can participate with Rock the Vote in a variety of ways, including financially. You can volunteer by helping people get registered, remind friends to vote and plan activities in your local community to encourage people to use their ballot. There are also opportunities to create and share content.
Work the Polls
Some people like to volunteer to work the polls on Election Day. This sometimes is difficult for military spouses because such volunteers are required to be registered to vote in a state in order to volunteer in that same state, even if they are already registered to vote in another state. Members of the Military Vote Coalition recently sent a letter to states with large active-duty military populations, including California, Virginia, Florida, Texas and North Carolina, asking that they waive this requirement to allow military families to work as poll workers.
Marine Corps spouse Natasha Harth planned to work the polls this year, but the pandemic, virtual schooling for her kids and a geobachelor assignment have changed her plans. She was originally motivated because of her interest in politics and elections.
"I've always had an inquiring mind about why laws are the way they are, how they're made and how they can be changed," she said. "I'm also typically a kind and patient person, something we need more of at the polls. I believe if a citizen wants to have their voice heard, then it starts with a vote. Whether or not 'your' candidate wins the election, every vote does count, and it provides valuable data for ALL policymakers and those working alongside them."
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