October 28th, 2008
12:00 PM ET
5 years ago

Overseas ballots should be counted, VA AG says

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin campaigned in Fairfax County, Virginia last month. Their campaign has tried to bring attention to a legal snag that could have caused some overseas absentee ballots from Virginia voters to be rejected.
Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin campaigned in Fairfax County, Virginia last month. Their campaign has tried to bring attention to a legal snag that could have caused some overseas absentee ballots from Virginia voters to be rejected.

(CNN) – Virginia’s Attorney General is weighing in on the conflict between federal law and a Virginia statute that could have caused some absentee ballots from overseas to be rejected by Fairfax County, Virginia.

Related: Ballots from U.S. troops risk being discarded

Federal law allows members of the U.S. military and other voters living overseas to vote in the general election using a federal write-in absentee ballot. The problem has been caused by the fact that when a Virginia voter decides to use the federal write-in absentee ballot both as a ballot to cast a vote and as an absentee ballot application, a separate Virginia law requires that the paperwork submitted by the voter include the address of the person acting as a witness for the voter.

But here’s the issue: neither the federal absentee write-in ballot itself nor its instructions mentions Virginia’s requirement that the witness’s address be included. In fact, the ballot form doesn’t even have a space to write down the witness address which Virginia requires.

Click here to see the federal write-in absentee ballot

In a formal legal opinion issued Monday night, Robert McDonnell concluded that federal law controls over the conflicting Virginia law. The opinion clears the way for roughly 60 overseas absentee ballots in Fairfax County to be counted in next week’s election returns and perhaps more ballots in the same predicament throughout Virginia.

Click here to read McDonnell's opinion

A mini-controversy had been brewing, with Fairfax County Registrar Rokey Suleman at its center, about the possibility that ballots from members of the military serving overseas would not be counted in next week’s presidential election. “I am getting e-mails from people offering to buy my tombstone,” Suleman said Monday about the anger that has been directed at him over the ballot controversy. Suleman also told CNN that so far 63 overseas ballots submitted to Fairfax County, Virginia were potentially caught up in the legal snag that the Virginia AG’s legal opinion has resolved.

The Virginia State Board of Election is set to take up the matter of the overseas ballots at a meeting Tuesday. The Board is likely to follow McDonnell’s opinion and direct Suleman and other county registrars across the state to accept federal write-in absentee ballots that are valid under federal law which but did not comply with additional requirements imposed by Virginia law.

–CNN's Carol Costello contributed to this report


Filed under: Virginia • Voter Problems
soundoff (217 Responses)
  1. Kim

    Why isn't there a central, non- or bi-partisan agency that handles elections, with paper ballots and receipts, and consistent requirements and procedures across the country? I guess that makes too much sense...

    October 28, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Tony

    Count the overseas ballots. The military votes Republican!

    October 28, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. Nancy

    This exact crap happened to me when I was stationed in Korea and wanted to vote for Gore! Its a setup, the majority of soldiers are democrats and the know it.

    October 28, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  4. Concerned Voter

    Somebody in charge did this on purpose. Knowing full well that Our military supports the RIGHT man for Commander In Chief position! More sneakiy cray by the democrats.

    October 28, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  5. Traditional_Values

    Of course, all should be counted, and more than ever the ideals of our fathers such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln and Reagan.

    October 28, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. Barack the Deceiver

    Barack Obama is William Ayers without the bombs.
    But just as dangerous.
    :-(

    October 28, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  7. Independent white female patriotic voter

    Every American overseas, especially Military personnel has the right to vote for president. No ifs or buts about it. How can our men and women from the military not feel like they count while they are protecting us.

    October 28, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. carol

    No vote should be discounted.....everyone is entitled to vote.....why oh why are there always problems every election!!!!
    It happens every 4 years for heavens sake.....in this age of new technology wouldn't you think we could have a system across the whole country that works in unison.....no different ideas from one state to another. This vote counts here and that vote counts there....not having the Presidential candidate on the same ballot in NC.....what is that about!!!!!
    No wonder these elections are always a mess...no one has any idea as to how to make it simple and straight forward.....it is a nightmare everytime!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. ANGIE

    What a SAD thing to do to our Veterans while they are serving our country, their votes should be counted no matter whom they vote for WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COUNTRY!

    October 28, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. BS not Maverick

    FIX-IT JUST FIX-IT!!!

    October 28, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. NYCVOTER

    The military is very much in favor of Republicans usually and from some data I saw the other day they were even more so this time most likely because of McCain's Military background.

    Let the Soldiers be heard!!!!!!!!!!!
    They have just as much if not more of a say in this as anyone!!!!!

    McCain -Palin 08

    October 28, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  12. Matt

    COUNT THEM ALL. DON'T GIVE THE REPUBLICANS AN EXCUSE WHEN THEY LOSE.

    October 28, 2008 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  13. Chris

    It's funny that now this has become an issue when the Republicans are on the verge of loosing the STATE!!!

    October 28, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  14. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    Look at this picture Sen McCain looks like the side kick and Palin is in charge. Go Obama

    October 28, 2008 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  15. OBAMA-BIDEN 08

    DISGUSTING, DISGRACEFUL AND DOWN RIGHT UN-AMERICAN...
    HOW ON EARTH HAS THIS HAPPENED. THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO ARE PUTTING THEIR LIVES AT RISK TO DEFEND THIS COUNTRY ARE NOT GIVEN THE CHANCE TO VOTE.

    ALMOST MAKES AS MUCH SENSE AS HAVING A CONVICTED FELON FOR SENATOR (Alaska's).

    October 28, 2008 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Ian

    That's no excuse for breaking the rules. The votes shouldn't count!

    McCain '08

    October 28, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  17. Erika

    I VOTED!!!!!OBAMA/BIDEN

    October 28, 2008 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
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