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. richard

    the polls show that obama is going to win I think that the race is
    closer than the polls say

    October 28, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Jack

    It looks like Virginia, Ohio, Florida and possibly Colorado will be deciding this election. It will be interesting to see if the people suffering in those states stick with what got them there or will they step in a new direction.
    OBAMA*BIDEN

    October 28, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. Bruce

    REMEMBER to VOTE
    Obama needs your VOTE so he can make the change we all need.

    Palin must be investagated. Her ties to AIP and the ethics problems are still not out in the open. The AIP is a Group that HATES everything about America. Palin's husband was a member of the AIP untill just a few years ago. Palin has made speaches at their conventions

    October 28, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Rob

    how democratic. very disappointing....

    October 28, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. marcie

    If we ever want to get out of this mess, we have to vote for change. GO OBAMA!

    October 28, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. Dee

    My husband is now in Iraq, been there on his 2nd deployment...he told me he mailed his ballot 2 weeks ago, we live in Virginia....I am quite upset that while he's in harms way and our country should insure that all the soldier's vote should count.....Do you understand what this is doing their morale while fighting for their country...

    Our government should be shamed!!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. JIM...TX

    Perfect reason for there to be ONE federal election statute !!!

    October 28, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  8. David, Silver Spring, MD

    As an Obama supporter, I strongly believe these ballots should be counted. It sounds like there aren't lots of them, so someone should be able to contact the voters to get the information for which no space was allocated on the form.

    Republicans everywhere are committed to the principle that the intent of the voter must be respected, whether it's in ballots cast by overseas military personnel or ballots cast by poor folk in Florida.

    October 28, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  9. Christine CT Ind.

    It makes no sense at all that the people who fight for their country can't vote for their own commander-in-chief??

    October 28, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  10. Pete

    I'm sure the democrats will be concerned. Concerned as in if the votes are counted, it could be a problem for them.

    October 28, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. Bring on the Elections

    John McCain will stop at nothing to winning... even cheating.. It dosen't surprise me....

    October 28, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Bob Indianapolis IN

    The GOP again with the voter supression...Where does it end???

    October 28, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  13. Sammy

    Probably those who wrote the federal ballot figured theirs overruled local rules in all respects. If so, they did not communicate this clearly to VA.

    October 28, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. Aaron

    You know, we vote for the idiots on American Idol with our cell phones. I was under the impression that we were living in the 21st century.

    October 28, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. irish

    Of Course when Obama loses the election, all his zombie supporters will be crying fraud !!! Just read the posts that are being submitted they are setting up now for when it happens so they can all roit in streets. I will never vote for Obama. I'm voting McCain. McCain has been tested and he was tested when no one was looking in VN. What the hell has Obama accomplished besides being a junior senator and a community organizer. Don't tell me his policies are not socialism. They most certainly are. It is detribution of wealth not of debt as some would like to think. He said it himself, the words come directly from his mouth. He is going to kill small business in this country and that is what makes this country tick. All his supporters are staning there in line waiting for there free hands outs as if they are going to get them the day after the election. Try working hard in life and get a job. Try being responsible for yourselves and not waiting for the goverment to give you something you didn't derserve. There has been to many things that have come out about Obama and all you liberal supporters just completely ignore it for whatever reason. Your obviously not thinking about the consquences if he wins. Good luck your freaking liberals your gonna need it if Obama is president.

    October 28, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. Janice Jeffries

    These are men and women fighting for this country's FREEDOMS! Sad! Those votes MUST be counted!!!!R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. CR in WI

    Hmmm, hopefully the start of a new trend, pragmatism in government. Regardless if this helps one party or the other, our service families must have a say in who controls the government that has placed them in harms way.

    Way to go democracy-
    Now lets make sure those purged off the voter roles whom are eligible to vote also get the same treatment from both side.

    BO08

    October 28, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. Sumi, CA

    My two brothers are currently serving in the US Military (Army and Air Force). One of them is currently deployed in the Middle East. When I recently spoke to him, he was very worried about his absentee voting. He went on to tell me almost everyone he spoke to in his squadrant is voting for Obama. Even my other brother who just served two deployments in Afghanistan said he (and almost all of his MP company) is voting for Obama.. They all want to come home to their families and want this war to end!

    So... Little does the GOP know and understand... Most people serving in the military are voting for Obama!!!! :) So, count their vote!!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Kd

    no way they should count the ballots if they were filled inproperly, besides mcdowell is a republican who will rule in his own self intrest.

    October 28, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. Enlightened Voter

    Gotta love those rethuglicans, the only way they can win elections is to lie, cheat or steal. Pathetic!

    October 28, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. Steve

    True mavericks don't brand themselves.

    October 28, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. Kina

    so the votes won't be counted caus of a technicality?...wowww...but i bet y'all the state doesn't reject the taxes these overseas ppl pay...just count the darn votes...

    Obama/Biden '08

    Kina.

    October 28, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. Lisa from Cincinnati

    If they are legal residents of Virginia than let their votes be counted. They are serving our country,

    October 28, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  24. j

    They definitely have to find a way to count the ballots of our soldiers over seas. It's unacceptable that this should happen.

    October 28, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  25. HUFFINGTON POST

    AMERICANS PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH ABOUT JOHN MCCAINS CO-FOUNDING OF THE EXTREMIST GROUP "PNAC" OR "THE PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY" BEFORE YOU VOTE. PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW GENERATIONS OF OUR CHILDREN TO BE THROWN INTO THE WAR MACHINE POLITICS OF JOHN MCCAIN!!!

    PLEASE EVERYONE!!! IF YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN AND DO NOT WANT THEM TO BE SENT TO THEIR DEATHS BY SENATOR MCCAIN IN WORLD WAR III PLEASE RESEARCH THIS!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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