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. Obama '08

    Independents – PLEASE – do not cast your vote for McCain. We have tried Republican policies and they have not worked. McCain is NOT a maverick. He tows the GOP line – as evidenced by his VP pick. We need a new direction. We need a leader with a calm, steady disposition. We need an intelligent thinker. One that has a vision and plan for America. We need Barack Obama. Now. Republican operatives have been rigging elections for decades. The margin right now is slim, probably only 4-5 pts. By disenfranchising new voters, purging voter rolls, blocking phone lines, intimidation of minorty voters and countless other dirty tricks, the GOP is well within range to steal this election. America needs all the Independents out there to stand together for a voice of unity. Come together with Barack Obama. The era of divisiveness must come to an end. Please vote for Obama.

    October 28, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. Julie

    There is always trouble with something in every election when it comes to counting votes. I think whoever gets to be President needs to start a unified voting system where everyone votes the same way and registers the same way.
    Last election dead people were voting!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. Helen

    ANOTHER BROKEN SYSTEM....HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN KNOWN?

    October 28, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. TM in Colorado

    There you go. Blaming the Democrats for all the ills in this country and voter fraud. Look back at 2000 Rick. Bush stole that election

    October 28, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. Soccer mom from Manhattan

    "Rick October 28th, 2008 1:25 pm ET

    The corrupt, lying democrats are trying to steal the military votes again."

    I don't know what Rick is talking about. My husband was in the Army until he got a medical discharge, my father was in the air force in Nam and my grandfather was a marine. We are a military family and we are Obama all the way. What makes you think that all of the military votes are GOP votes. Your friend, McCain, gets a "D" from Disabled Vets. Obama gets a "B" and Biden gets an "A"

    October 28, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. mary, colorado springs

    What idiot decided to check and see if GIs overseas can vote by absentee ballot? They are getting their cans shot off for their country and some moron is checking to see if they have the right to vote! Must be a Republican behind it all.

    October 28, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. John Air Force Vet

    Millions of Americans are all thinking and saying the same thing – why can't we have a voting system that works? It is not rocket science. It is broke because it serves a purpose – it is easiely tapered with. It, historically ,appears to have benefitted the republcan party – but is open to abuse by either. Americans need to push hard the next four years for a proper system and not forget about it because we are burnt out after an election. I live in WA and have lived in OR. Both have mail in systems that work very well-and no lines. In anycase-let the Vets vote-WHAT KIND OF DEMOCRACY IS THIS! ...and we need paper back ups with a receipt WE KEEP.

    October 28, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  8. John B. In NH

    Debby... ACORN and this are completely different and seperate issues. these are actual BALLOTS!! ACORN snafu was caused by workers falsifying registration forms to get paid... imaginary people cannot vote... GOT IT?!?! but to your point, i agree, every ballot should be counted!!

    October 28, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  9. bob

    Obama a bridge to somewhere, Palin a bridge to knowhere!!

    October 28, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  10. Fraud Everwhere

    I'm expecting that based on exit polls, 35 million blacks will have voted even though there are only 13 million blacks in the country.

    October 28, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. Heather, OH

    I served in the military and I strongly agree these votes should not be tossed out on a technicality, but COUNTED! How awful to deny our troops the right to choose the person who will be directing their future activities. Shame on the VA if these votes aren't counted.

    Go troops!

    Go Obama/Biden 08!

    October 28, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. Bruce

    Everyone should be provided a chance to vote! That means a place where they can go, voting machines that they can depend on, and trained personnel to kep the process fair and moving quickly. If a third world country conducted their election like we do here in the USA we woudl be sending troops in to take over the operation and declare the election a FRAD. But here again it is just the American way of "do as we say not as we do"

    October 28, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  13. Andy J, NY

    I'm so sick of people thinking that democrats are so much better than republicans, and vice versa.

    IN CASE YOU IDIOTS HAVEN'T FIGURED IT OUT YET, BOTH PARTIES ARE THE PROBLEM!!!!

    I can't wait until the election is over and people STFU about it. Partisan politics is such a turn off, and the hypocrisy that accompanies it is likewise repulsive.

    October 28, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. Dan, TX

    Count those ballots! Obama '08!

    October 28, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. Danny from Phoenix

    Fact: vast majority of ballots cast from Americans working/living in other countries or military members are for democratic candidates.

    October 28, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. Tom L.

    Just count the votes. While going to college I voted absentee from where my parents lived. I needed the ballot to be notarized. Later I worked in Germany as a civilian for the Army and voted absentee there. At that time I did not need a notarized ballot. I doubt any fraud took place.

    October 28, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  17. OBSERVER

    Why over-react? There must be a reason why not counted...
    Imagine if someone exploit the process by adding balloting votes that are collectively from military who may not belong to the county.

    October 28, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. ANGIE

    REPUBLICANS ARE TRYING HARD TO STEAL THIS ELECTION
    NOT THIS TIME NOT THIS YEAR!!!

    October 28, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. McCain the loser

    It's hard to believe that this was never as issue before this election. How long has Virginia been running their elections this way regarding their voters overseas.

    October 28, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  20. Lee

    "The corrupt, lying democrats are trying to steal the military votes again."

    Um, hate to break it to you Rick, but Obama has greater support from the military than McCain.

    October 28, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. Joe Green

    Overseas ballots = military votes = McCain votes.

    Somehow, I suspect the AG of Virginia will find a way to count these.

    If they were from students studying overseas (i.e., Obama voters) they'd be tossed in a trash can.

    That's how Democracy works!

    October 28, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  22. It's Rob the Vote!

    Sorry the whole thing is a joke!
    You have the Acorn fiasco
    You have nearly every swing or must win state in a tailspin with voting registration problems.
    Then add to the mix the problems with the voting machines and you think you will get a REAL VOTE out of this mess.
    America land of the Led

    October 28, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Susan from Colorado

    I don't know why Palin stop here to "campaign". All she did was stand up on the podium in her "new" suit and swipe at Obama the entire afternoon. She spoke nothing of the issues...just Obama. Sarah Palin is a nut.

    October 28, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. Irony

    With over 200 years of voting, and "the greatest country on earth" hasn't learned how to count.

    Either that or we must realize that figures don't lie, but liars do figure!

    There is absolutely no reason why we have voting problems in this country, unless they are manufactured problems designed to keep people from voting.

    October 28, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. 30-m-PA-voted McCain

    Gallus has Obama's lead down to just 2 points!!!!!! Yes We Can defeat Obama!!!!!

    PUMA

    October 28, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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