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Protecting Military Voting: A Blue Star Mom Speaks Out

A military mom describes her experience fighting the bureaucracy to ensure that her deployed son receives his ballot in time to participate in elections back home.

by
Betty Boren Avery

Bio

October 25, 2010 - 10:24 am

My name is Betty Boren Avery, and I am a Republican precinct chairman (an unpaid elected position).

I will be serving as an election judge this November 2. To do so, I attend the mandatory secretary of state election law training and the required clerical training (every seven months) on how to assemble and disassemble the electronic voting equipment, do the paperwork, etc. Also, I am a volunteer deputy voter registrar and have attended the training on how to complete the voter registration form for the state of Texas for the past several years.

In other words: I am trained and I know what I am doing. I follow the law and swear in my clerks each election to uphold the “purity” of the election.

I am also a Blue Star Mom, with a son currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne. He is a registered voter and deserves the right to vote. He does not have to vote, but he should have the choice to vote and should have a ballot sent to him on time.

I have listened to the Department of Defense describe the military post card procedures. I have also reviewed the website for military voting, and I found and provided the “Registration and Absentee Ballot Request — Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)” form for my son and for other military service members. My son completed the form on one of his visits home from his home post of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and it was signed and dated with additional information to be completed. The APO address is to be provided later by the soldier or parents.

This form seemed self-explanatory. People do not know their APO address until they are deployed or until just before they are deployed, and this was my son’s first deployment: he is 20 years old.

My experience trying to change his registration to an APO address with the Harris County Voter Registration Department was interesting. I contacted the head of the elections department, and was told that they could not help me — I had to talk to the mail ballot staff. I called them, and the person I spoke to was hesitant — they wanted to talk to my son. I tried to explain that this was not possible, as he had just left for Afghanistan and I had no contact with him.

It was difficult enough waiting to hear that he had made it safely to his new posting. Now, I had to deal with an administrative person questioning a form we were both looking at (fortunately, I had made a copy of the form so I had proof of the original request). The woman eventually stated that she believed the mail ballot could be sent at the earliest date, but that I would need to send my son’s email address so he could verify the information himself.

Ugh. I stated that a) he does not have a computer and b) and he does not have access to the internet — except when he waits in line for 2-3 hours and then he gets only 15- 20 minutes of computer time, which he likes to spend on Facebook chatting with friends. Facebook is the only place where I have been able to communicate with my son. Not through email or through the mail — he does not write letters, cards, or send photos, etc. His communication is brief, never more than a few words or letters like “IDK” or “O.”

I sent the email like they requested with the APO address to postalballots1@hctx.net on August 17, and followed up after a few days to check on the status. I got the “privilege” of talking to the head of the mail ballot department about the request: she said she would send my son an email to check on the request — but that she would check with the secretary of state to see if she can accept the address from me.

My frustration with the system was now beyond belief. I knew the correct forms, and I was not trying to do anything not allowed. I was just trying to have the Ft. Campbell address changed to the APO address! I was about to yell at the lady at this point.

Recently, I called the mail ballot department to check on the status of my son’s mailed ballot and was told that it was mailed on September 17.  As far as I know, he has not received it yet, but I have not heard from him in several days.

Had I not known what to do, would he have been sent a ballot? If it had been sent to Ft. Campbell, would it sit in the mail room and not arrive in Afghanistan?

We must do better; we can do better!

PJ Media is asking military voters who had problems getting their ballots to send their stories to story@pjmedia.com.

Betty Boren Avery is a military mom and election judge in Texas.
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