Past the distance: U.S. troops, reservists prepare to vote absentee

Posted at 6:10 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 19:18:41-04

As the upcoming November election nears, absentee voting of another kind has been well underway.

This one reaching far past the United States into U.S. military bases throughout the world.

Absentee voting for members of the military is nothing new. In fact, a recent NBC report states that mail-in ballots can be dated back to the Civil War.

Corpus Christi native and U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Susan Benavidez wasn’t around during the 19th century, but she has been with the Reserves for more than 26 years.

In the last presidential election, Benavidez recalls voting from a military base in Kuwait.

This election year, Benavidez is with Corpus Christi’s 211th Regional Support Group and is part of the Hood Mobilization Brigade at Fort Hood. She plans on voting absentee this election year, too.

“It’s actually one of the freedoms that we help to defend,” she said. “I appreciate being able to vote and having that right to do so.”

Members of the military like Benavidez are able to participate in the election much like civilians through the assistance of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), an organization that was established by the Department of Defense.

“It’s a process that’s been around for a long time,” said Public Affairs Officer for the 211th, Maj. Thomas Piernicky. “I used it back in 2008 when I was in Iraq. I got to vote for president back then, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. We’re still going to use the exact same process today that we used all those years ago when our soldiers were overseas.”

As for Master Sgt. Benavidez, she said voting in a local election amid a pandemic makes things feel a little less surreal.

“Knowing that I can put in the absentee ballot for Nueces County brings a little bit of normalcy,” Benevidez said. “Even though there’s nothing normal right now — absolutely nothing normal going on right now.

"But knowing that I’m still able to vote in my own county - that still helps me feel like there’s some normalcy there.”