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Supporting Servicemembers through the Military Voter Education Project

By Stacey Scholl / 2016 July 1st

At this time of year, Americans remember what it means to be a free country, turning our thoughts to the approximately 2.1 million men and women in military uniform who serve to guarantee that freedom. This year is also an election year; many important races and initiatives will be decided on both primary and general election ballots.

June 27-July 5 is Armed Forces Voting Week, an observance that highlights—but in no way limits—the time to draw attention to voting for this group. We help honor our servicemembers when we work steadily to ensure they have timely information presenting clear steps to share in the freedom to vote—no matter where they are.

For this reason, Democracy Fund is proud to announce a new grant to the Military Officers Association of America Military Family Initiative (MMFI) for its Military Voter Education Project, a one-year, non-partisan voter education effort. The goal of the project is simple: Focus attention on valuable resources and information for military voters and their families.

Absentee voters must find and retain voting information months before Election Day—and it is unfortunately easy for voters to miss critical deadlines or directions; this is especially true for members of the military who are serving away from home. Distance affects the type of information they come across and pay attention to. Election administrators and voting advocates must rely on the most recent findings and data on how best to reach military voters with essential information about requesting, receiving, and returning their ballots in time for counting.

The study “Effects of Spouses on Voting in the Active Duty Military Population,” released in 2015 by the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) points to the unique link between marriage and the likelihood that a servicemember will cast a ballot. FVAP is the Department of Defense agency responsible for assisting military and overseas voters. The piece reveals that, in part, “being married lowers the opportunity costs associated with gathering election information. Once one married partner learns about some aspect of the election, sharing those voting resources and information is costless.” This led FVAP to conclude, “If spouses can provide information about … voting assistance resources, a marketing campaign directly targeting spouses of military members could potentially have a positive effect.”

That’s where MMFI can have a specific impact. MMFI holds that “nothing is more important to [our] national defense than the welfare of our military families” and has dialed into the needs of this particular group. The trust MOAA garners in this community, as the largest association of military officers, means it is in a unique position to disseminate information so that it is likely to be seen and retained by many groups, including spouses. MOAA also will work with additional partners to reach the enlisted community with the same level of energy and attention, because there is no division in our armed forces—they are all united in the same mission.

Over the next year, we look forward to seeing military voters and their families connect with distinct marketing aimed at equipping them with voter information. We hope we will see more citizens choose to participate in the election process because they feel empowered to do so.

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