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Guest opinion

Clean Elections: Federal law ensures overseas military personnel, others can cast ballots

Everyone cherishes the memory of the first time they ever voted, but mine was especially memorable because I was stationed in Ramstein, Germany, with the U.S. Air Force.

I cast my first vote thanks to the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which makes voting accessible for military personnel, their voting-eligible dependents and any eligible U.S. citizen living outside of the country.

From my perspective, the idea is simple: while members of our military are doing right in the world, the UOCAVA aims to facilitate their doing right by their communities and hometowns with their vote.

As we are a state with a substantial military population, the UOCAVA is really important for Arizonans. And, today, as the voter education manager with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, it is one of my favorite topics because I was personally, positively impacted by it when I was in the service.

It's no secret that we have entered into a very active election cycle with high-profile statewide offices on the ballot, congressional seats, and even positions on the commission that regulates utilities. All of this makes the UOCAVA a timely topic for anyone. Every vote matters and UOCAVA makes more participation possible. Qualifying UOCAVA voters include those in the uniformed services — the U.S. armed forces, Merchant Marine, commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

UOCAVA comes with many benefits. When eligible citizens register they receive materials such as the CCEC Voter Education Guide; they can request an early ballot, and even an emergency back-up ballot. In fact, members of the military who were already registered to vote and are out of the country leading up to the primary election on Aug. 2, will start receiving their ballots in June.

And while the UOCAVA is simple, it is unique to every circumstance. Understanding the ins and outs, as well as the deadlines is key to making it work for you or someone you know. The details and how-to's are summarized on the CCEC website.

Reflecting on my time in the Air Force, it was hard to be away from my loved ones. I sometimes felt a bit disconnected from my home country. However, the UOCAVA made it possible to feel in touch even when I was thousands of miles away. I soon realized that my vote mattered and I hope others have the same experience as I did.

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For more information regarding elections, important dates, candidate debates and more please visit us online at AZcleanelections.gov.

Avery Xola is the voter education mnager for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, responsible for educating Arizonans on the electoral process.

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