October 28th, 2008
12:00 PM ET
6 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. karen-phoenix

    Tooo many technicalities. Let every service person's vote count!!!!
    God BLess Obama/Biden!!!! AND I've been a republican for 40 years and I'm white, female and live in AZ!!! AZ just may go blue!!!

    October 28, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. President Barack Obama

    The GOP is going to try there best to STEAL this election......

    >>>>>>>>>IT"S>>>>NOT>>>>GOING>>>>TO>>>>HAPPEN>>>>>>>>

    Barack H. Obama will be the Next POTUS!!!!

    Tell your Family, Tell a friend, Tell your neighbors, Co Workers, Strangers to....................

    Barack Your Vote08!!!

    October 28, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. GIVE PEACE A CHANCE, VOTE A STRAIGHT DEM TICKET!

    Of course, they should be counted. Just because a name of Mike instead of Michael was used, or a middle initial was not put in or invalid address should not disqualify someone from voting, especially in absentee ballots from overseas.

    October 28, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Tylen

    While it is true that every single vote must be counted, I find it incredible that the McCain campaign would focus on 60 ballots from over seas, while ignoring the thousands of voters being illegally disenfrachised in states like GA. This seems very much like the McCain campaign pointing to an extremely small population of voters who may be facing difficulty so they can ignore the larger problems that actually FAVOR McCain's camp. Shame on you Mr. McCain. You used to be so honorable. Why did you have to sell your soul to the RNC?

    October 28, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    if Barack Obama gets elected it will be a nightmare. There will be no hope anymore.

    October 28, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  6. facts are facts

    If they count the votes they will almost certainly be all for Obama as no soldier in their right mind is going to vote for a war monger who is intent on keeping them in the Middle East for years to come.

    October 28, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  7. Frank Scherer

    I agree that our soldiers votes should be counted. If you decide not to count them every politician in Virginia needs to step down from office.

    October 28, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Debbie-Los Angeles

    They're votes count too and I cannot believe they won't be counted. Virginia's law makes no sense. PLEASE LET THEIR VOICES BE HEARD-LET THEIR VOTES COUNT!

    Obama-Biden in '08

    October 28, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. Get Real

    Count these men and women's votes. I do not care who gets the majority ( McCain or Obama). They are over in other countries giving their lives for this nation.

    This should not even be an issue... but a welcome exception to this bogus law!

    October 28, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. The Bluest Skies are in Seattle

    Hey John whats with that Automobile crash on Huffington Post was it a DWI ?You are going to miss your best buddy Stevens as you guys were buddy buddy for many years and he is also a best friend of Palin .
    John you and Palin keep pointing your fingere remember 4 are pointing at you .

    October 28, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  11. randy

    Why is it that Ted Stevens can still run for Senator of Alaska when he has been convicted of a felony. If I had been convicted of a felony I lose my rights to vote. He should not be allowed to run for any elected position.

    October 28, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. Nita in Virginia

    how could something like this be? definately a major oversight. VA get it right.

    October 28, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. Linnae

    When it comes to your right to vote, I don't care who you're voting for. Every American deserves his/her voice. Especially our military. Good decision.

    October 28, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  14. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    How was the law written to not to allow ballots like this? The federal one should make notes about checking with each state to be sure of the local rules for absentee ballots.

    October 28, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Michael watching from Canada

    America is the most powerful nation on earth......

    and should make every effort to count the votes of its soldiers.

    It is really interesting to watch how the US foreign policy has changed over the past six months.......

    Bush negotiated with Iraq for a troop withdrawal on a timeline......

    similar to that which Obama has been proposing.

    The US military has recently started to redeploy troops to Afghanistan....

    similar to that which Obama has been proposing.

    The US has been opening up more dialogue with Iran.....

    similar to that which Obama has been proposing.

    The world sees Obama as someone who will be better for our world......

    and yes, the world sees Obama with better judgment and has the "steel spine" to maintain US military superiority.

    October 28, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. Dem to the End

    All I can say is here we go again!!!

    October 28, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Mikey

    Headline from the front page of today's Wall Street Journal:

    "U.S. Mulls Talks With Taliban In Bid to Quell Agrhan Unrest"

    Does McCain still think Obama is a naive appeaser for wanting to talk with adversaries... or has he figured out he was dead wrong once again? It's a good thing he has the surge. Otherwise, his batting average would be .000.

    Of course, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    October 28, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    These two, McCain and Palin, have wasted too much time gossiping and making up stuff because they are too lazy to do their own research. Shame on McCain and Palin for calling themselves politicians. McCain isn't the "Straight Talk Express", it's the "Straight Gossip Express". Incompetent.

    October 28, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  19. DIVA 101

    Let me guess. The ROC is going to donate Sarah's new clothes to her favorite consignment store in Alaska. Sarah will then march in and buy them back pennies on the dollar. Sounds like a good Republican plan to me!

    October 28, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  20. REVOLUTION

    This is some bs, cause they know the troops want to come home, and McCain isn't the person for that is he. They are jerking those troops, some America this is.

    October 28, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  21. David

    hmmmm, can you smell fraud in the air?

    October 28, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. the other jd

    Oh, please! Just count the darned votes.

    October 28, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Molly V. Stockton

    I have seen no comment on TV nor heard any on the radio about what I consider to be a very serious issue.
    Governor Palin was shown on TV sitting in front of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan with her legs crossed (a lady crosses only her ankles) and her skirt above her knees. As a candidate for Vice-President (as said so often, "a heartbeat from the Presidency") Governor Palin is most unsuitable to represent the United States in any dealings with Muslims. I hope very much that Senator Obama wins the Presidency so that this woman will go back to Alaska, her family, and her religious fanaticism. She is too ignorant to hold office. Why have I heard no comments on this?
    Molly V. Stockton, Tucson, Arizona.

    October 28, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. brenda

    why dont we just allow every human being over the age of 18 vote in this country? it doesnt matter if they are legal or not. simply living here means that the next adminstration will affect their lives so they should get a voice.

    October 28, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. JJ

    Did they tell them that if they went Overseas and fight for their country that they wouldn't be behind them. That is unfair. Why did this come about.

    Oh because General Collin Powell endorsed Obama instead of McCain, now their vote want count. People this is pathetic. And that is why people are not so eager to service this country because of bull like this.

    October 28, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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