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. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    If their votes are not counted, bring them home – they should not be fighting and being maimed and killed for a country that discounts their votes.

    Typical republican hogwash – trying to fix the election AGAIN.

    Not this time. Obama/Biden '08

    October 28, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. jerry in suffolk virginia

    mcdonnell=mccaine=bush,ALL REPUGNICANS!!!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Ally

    Palin sure thinks highly of herself.........I dont.

    October 28, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. hurriCAIN PALIN

    nobama democrats = kinda like lemmings of a pack following the false prophet messiah saviour right over a cliff because their brainwashed. "barack the vote", "vote early","vote straight dem". maybe that one guy was right, america becoming a nation of whiners wanting to depend on the goverment to pamper 'em.

    October 28, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Vegas

    To say otherwise is rediculous...
    Of all people Vets should be heard... at the very least they've defended the right to begin with...

    Agree on this one...

    October 28, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  6. Yam

    I can totally believe that the GOP would try to purge overseas and military votes. So much for stickin up for our service men and women...all to win an election!

    VOTE THE BUMBS OUT!

    October 28, 2008 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Klingon from Texas

    I am dismayed that running the nations elections is such a low priority for our elected officials. DId this not occur to anyone before now? In a democracy, elections must be a higher priority than filling potholes or mailing tax forms. It is critically important that no qualified voter be denied the right to vote, that no fraud takes place, and that election results are verifiably and exactly correct. The Conservatives won the 2000 election in the courts; we don't want them to steal another one.

    October 28, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. Red, Red WHINE!!

    Our men and women overseas, ALL of our citizens regardless of location have a GOD GIVEN right to vote. I don't care WHO they vote for, they MUST be counted. STOP THE VOTER SUPPRESSION GOP, and yes, stop the ACORN bs as well (which is NOT democrat, McCain by the way was their key speaker).

    Let the best man win, with ALL VOTES counted! It's the american way!

    October 28, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  9. rahepee

    Count all the votes from all the qualified voters, regardless if some minor portion of the ballot is missing. As long as it is clear what the person if voting for, and who the person voting is, that should be good enough.

    October 28, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. ZANE

    If Palin has her sights on 2012, does she really expect the Republicans will back her? She has stabbed McCain in the back and has made it very clear that nothing or anyone will stand in her way. What a fool she has become!

    October 28, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  11. Marge

    No matter if they are democratic or republican ballots ALL VOTES MUST BE COUNTED. We know there are going to be a heck of a lot of fraud votes, because of what ACORN has done and goodness knows what else. But votes should be counted.

    I really think that most of the people who are going to vote for obama are holding their nose when they do. They don't want to continue to republican policies so they are voting democrat not OBAMA.

    He is too mean spirit and vindictive and small minded we all know. He should really win the big oscar this year. But nevertheless with all his crookedness he shoved Hillary out, who would have made a wonderful president. Lets see how fast this piece of crap screws up....

    October 28, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  12. Bitter in Texas

    ...it's simple...count the ballots!!!!!!!!!!!! Sate law should not superceed Federal Law...just count the ballots and get over it. I have two bottles of sparkling wine in the fridge and the cork screw is ready for Tuesday night...can't wait to really enjoy this win. Remember...VOTE and if you can vote today.

    October 28, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe NM

    Why don't we have FEDERAL laws for FEDERAL elections instead of all this mickey-mouse state and county rules that only get in the way of modern voring practices? It's ridiculous that votes are not counted in a FEDERAL election because of local glitches.

    October 28, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  14. First Skanky Lady

    Cindy Lou is a skanky ho-bo-zo, who doesn't deserve to put one toe in the White House. If she moves in just paint the White House with a dirty white color.

    He left his wife and kids.
    He left his wife and kids.
    He left his wife and kids for Cindy Lou Bimbo.

    October 28, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. Dr. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA

    IT SEEMS TO ME, THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF

    OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESS SHOULD BE JUST

    A BIT EASIER TO PARTICIPATE IN. AFTER ALL THE

    FEDERAL, CITY & STATE GOVERNMENTS DON'T

    SEEM TO HAVE ANY DIFFICULTY STREAMLINING

    THE PROCESS OF TAKING OUR MONEY. THIS

    NEEDS TO GET DONE. WE SHOULD ALL NOT SEND

    IN OUR CHECKS IN ON APRIL 15TH. SEE HOW FAST

    THE FEDS WOULD GET BACK TO MORE THAN A

    A HUNDRED MILLION OF US. CAN'T PUT ALL OF US IN JAIL,

    ALTHOUGH GOD KNOWS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS TRIED.

    October 28, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. Yolanda

    Palin – Just a plain ole' Walmart hockey Mom. lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol...I can't stop laughing!

    OBAMA/BIDEN for a new direction.

    October 28, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Huge Endorsement for Obama

    This race should be over now. The largest newspaper in Alaska (Anchorage News Paper) just endorsed Obama. They said Palin is to risky.

    October 28, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Blue By You

    Count 'em.

    October 28, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. Justie

    Unfortunately, I think America has woken up way too late.
    OBAMA/BIDEN

    October 28, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. dd

    Seems to me, after reading stories like this and others on how voters are denied their right to vote, that the American voting process is in serious need of revamping. In Canada, you walk into the one polling station, make an X next to the candidate and it's done. If you're not on the list, you need only prove you are Canadian, over 18 and live in the area for that polling station (you can only vote in that one place so you can't go from station to station voting). Advance polling and mail in ballots are accepted with proper identification.

    Best of all...no political party or official that is not with Elections Canada can tell me I can not vote. No political party can challenge my right to vote for any reason. Why on Earth is this tolerated in the US??? Is it not a conflict of interest????

    The US touts itself as the leader when it comes to democracy and "freedom." The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democracy. Why are so many denied that right????

    October 28, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. Praetorian

    Good for them. Nice to see a little common sense in government.

    October 28, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. Sharon from Dumfries Virginia

    Thank you Virginia Attorney General for making things right. Those men and women serve our country and Virginia wants to tell them their absentee ballot doesn't count because the ballot doesn't have a space for the witness address. Again,

    Thank you Attorney General for making things right

    God Bless America

    October 28, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Bruce

    Mail in votes mostly do not get counted because they come in after the state has certified the count. Remember Florida in 2000?

    October 28, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. RDS

    I think its a sad shame and a disgrace that the officials of this country have known about these voting issues since 2000 and have done little to nothing to fix the problem These men/women are over there fighting for their lives and our freedom, you would think that we could have the common courtesy to make sure that have the right to vote in an election that will impact their lives tremendously.

    October 28, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. Chipster

    Since Federal law is supreme, as McDonnell concluded, I don't see a serious conflict here. Federal law doesn't require it so, problem solved. Count the VOTES!

    October 28, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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