American Forces Press Service
Oct. 1, 2008 - A delegation of secretaries of state and chief election officials from Pennsylvania, California, Indiana, Mississippi and Florida visited here yesterday to receive updates on the voting process for servicemembers serving in Iraq. Delegation members said they visited Joint Base Balad to promote voting participation by servicemembers and learn about the installation's voting assistance program and servicemembers' overseas voting experience. The delegation also visited an installation post office and the military mail terminal here and received a briefing on overseas voting operations.
With responsibility for mail distribution in Iraq, the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command individually tracks registrations and ballots from remote post offices in Iraq back to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, where they are received for distribution.
At each stop, the delegation received an in-depth look at the voting processes and procedures provided to servicemembers deployed to Iraq.
"Servicemembers are already providing a valuable service for our country in defending our democracy," said Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortes, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. "That democracy cannot continue to stand if people do not participate in the electoral process. It's our most fundamental right of citizenship, and also our responsibility."
Cortes said he and his colleagues were impressed with the way and the 3rd ESC and voting assistance officers were making sure all servicemembers are aware of voting deadlines and requirements of their respective states.
"We are trying to inform the troops," said Army Maj. James Hess, plans and operations officer in charge for the 3rd ESC's personnel section. "No matter if they are in the States, or overseas, in remote sites or right here on Joint Base Balad, they still have the right to vote, and we are providing the opportunity and are dedicated to giving them the opportunity."
The overall message that Cortes and the delegation continuously stressed to servicemembers was the importance of voting and having their voices heard.
"I'm so delighted to be here in Iraq, and I want to wish our troops a great election time," Cortes said. "It's very important that you vote, so please make sure that you do."