Virginia Miliary Absentee Ballot Problem Will Be Solved

The military voting project at the National Defense Committee responds to reports out of Fairfax, Virginia, and after polite telephone conversations and an exchange of letters, the problem looks like it will be solved and votes will be counted.

From: Bob Carey (Empire-Capitol Strategies) [mailt]
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2008 3:37 PM
To: 'Bob Carey (Empire-Capitol Strategies)'
Subject: Fairfax County, Virginia Rejecting FWABs

As many of you know, Sam Wright, Director of the Military Voting Project at the National Defense Committee, sent this excellent letter to the Department of Justice Voting Rights Section encouraging them to investigate the actions of Fairfax County, Virginia Board of Elections regarding witness requirements on Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots, the provisional ballots military and overseas voters use if they have not received their regular absentee ballots.

The problem is that the Fairfax County government had originally interpreted Virginia law to require all Federal Write-In Absentee ballots to have a witness' signature, printed name and address on the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot.

However, the underlying Virginia law only requires this witness signature, printed name and address if they are taking advantage of the special Virginia provision that allows the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot to ALSO serve as the absentee ballot application.

Because that's different from what the federal Voting Assistance Guide says, hundreds of Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots received to date were potentially going to be rejected. In fact, as of today, while about 260 Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots had been received by Fairfax County, only five had the witness name and address.

I've been in contact with the Fairfax County Registrar, Rokey Fulman, and he accepted my recommendation to contact the Virginia State Board of Elections to confirm this interpretation of the Virginia statute, as Sam's letter points out the Fairfax interpretation is likely incorrect. I'm happy to report that he has received guidance from the State Board of Elections that the witness name and signature requirement do indeed only apply if the FWAB is also being used simultaneously as an absentee ballot application. Therefore, so long as a Federal Post Card Application is received by election day, the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot will count, which is the normal process for military absentee ballots to be cast.

Hopefully this will allow for the ballots to be fully counted. National Defense Committee, through its Military Ballot Protection Program, will continue to monitor this development, take appropriate and forceful action where needed, and advise you all as to what we are doing.