October 28th, 2008
12:00 PM ET
9 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. John

    This is a bureaucratic gobbledegoop, that is only explained with one word, "lawyers". Is there any question why state and federal government is so screwed up. If your over seas, and you need to vote, what's the problem with one office in the US that accepts one ballot, that each state will use. Leaving it to individual states is the moronic way to do business. What...if it isn't confusing, it isn't right.

    October 28, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. Kendra in Indiana

    If anyone has earned the right to vote it is our men and women fighting for us overseas. How this is an issues is beyond me. They are fighting for our freedom and our country so at the very least their voices should be heard. No matter what your political party or who you are voting for we should all be outraged. American owes our service people the right to be involved in the voting process, it is their right!

    October 28, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. 30-m-PA-voted McCain

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


    October 28, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Adriana Birmingham, AL

    Here is what Virginia will probably do. They will count all the ballots for McCain whether or not there is an address for the witness and reject all the ballots for Obama on the grounds there is notaddress for the witness. The election will be stolen again by the Republicans. They have already purged 100,000s of legitimate voters from rolls in a lot of battleground states. There is no way a real change candidate can win here ever. The rest of the world will see us for the fakes we really are.

    October 28, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  5. VCC

    This is to Marge who thinks Obama is mean-spirited. I never read so much drivel in my life. You are a hippocrit if I ever saw one. John McCain is the mean one and you can see it, he is famous for his temper but you call Obama mean-spirited? No one at Obama's rallies has ever yelled "kill him" or "terrorist" at any of Obama's rallies, this come from the McCain rallie.

    October 28, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  6. Kate

    where are Sarah Palin's medical records?????????????????6

    October 28, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |


    October 28, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  8. Alex

    Fascists go home.

    October 28, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. SB in NoVA

    Count ALL votes!

    Already VOTED IN VIRGINIA for Obama/Biden!
    Turn VA Blue!!

    October 28, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. Lisa, Las Vegas

    So this is how they plan to "steal" the election. Say this group's ballots don't count and that group's ballots don't count, etc. COUNT ALL THE BALLOTS and stop discarding them. Is this the ONLY way the Republicans and McCain and win this election? Sounds like it to me. Clearly he has no agenda of his own, so he depends on voter fraud and the media to "help him along." Sarah Palin should be enough to discourage ANYBODY for voting for him, period. Times are too serious, so stop playing games with America's future. COUNT THE VOTES!

    October 28, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. Jake

    Victor, NJ: your analysis is spot on. McCain's argument that more tax cuts for the rich will cure all that ails America is a big lie that has been proven wrong in practice time and time again. Corporations ship jobs overseas to exploit the dirt cheap labor; taxes have nothing to do with the equation. It's simply shocking that $40,000-a-year plumbers think this strategy might be good for them.

    And for anyone who thinks McCain still has any chance whatsoever to win the election, here's a challenge: please post a link to a mainstream political or news website that currently gives McCain a reasonable chance of winning 180 or more electoral votes. Note that 270 are needed.

    October 28, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. milo

    I just can't fathom how ANYONE would oppose counting legitimate ballots. Seriously, they want to disqualify them for following an instruction that wasn't even LISTED?

    October 28, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  13. Todd

    I can't imagine the Republicans wanting to disenfranchise members of the military, who vote overwhelmingly republican, so i don't think it's a fair acusation.

    The Replublican disenfranchisement movement is primarily aimed at the poor, the aged, and African Americans, who largely vote Democrat.

    October 28, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  14. Concerned in MA


    I think this is one issue both parties agree on.


    October 28, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. McCain the loser

    "Huge End. for Obama" That is too funny, great news but funny. That newspaper knows Palin and the issues she has better that anyone. She can't be trusted, even the McCain camp says she won't stay on script and is only campaigning for herself now. Just think what would happen if something happened to McCain, everything he has said on the trail would never be followed thru with Palin. She beats to her own drum and thinks everyone should always agree with her even when she is dead wrong and doesn't have a clue what she is talking about.

    October 28, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. george from alaska

    The patterns of history are repeated…

    President Roosevelt (June 27, 1936): A Rendezvous With Destiny

    “That very word freedom, in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power. In 1776 we sought freedom from the tyranny of the eighteenth-century royalists who held special privileges from the crown.

    Modern economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms [have been] built upon concentration of control over material things. The whole structure of modern life [has been] impressed into this royal service.

    In America we are [now] waging a great and successful war. It is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.”

    October 28, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. ChicagoSuz

    Makes me think that they believe the overwhelming majority must be voting for Sen. Obama.* Why else would they be trying to disenfranchise these soldiers and their families?

    Call my bluff and count these votes!!

    *Can't really blame them. I'm sure they're ready to come home – especially, after their second or third tour. They know Sen. Obama will do everything in his power to make that happen sooner, rather than later. They also know that Sen. Obama will have their back once they get home. Get them the physical/mental healthcare they need and deserve; help them go to college if they choose, etc. McCain talks a good game, but his record on Veterans is deplorable.

    Obama-Biden '08! Go early vote! Make history!!

    October 28, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |

    I don't understand in economic point of view on how lowering taxes would create jobs? It seems no link to jobs... low taxes could be an incentive to invest provided there are demand.

    If I put myself in the position of a business person, I would thank govt for lowering taxes and that is my additional profit.

    Do I need to hire more people just because I have extra profits from normal operation? Only a FOOL will. The amount lowered may be too little compared to a salary and benefits of an employee. I am not a welfare company... why should I use the monay to hire more people?

    I will hire more people if my biz booms where the demend of my products increases and I need more manpower to produce more products.

    October 28, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Ken

    hurriCAIN PALIN: the only whiners I'm seeing are disatisfied [R]s, whining why their far right policies aren't winning, and disenfranchised [R]s, who watched as their party got stolen from them by the neo-tards over the last couple of decades.

    YOU are out of time and out of ideas and out of fake plumbers who you would use to bring a false message of division to America. You would have been an upstanding Tory in earlier times. Today, you are just a political has-been with real coward tendancies.

    October 28, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. A-Man

    Only reason so many of these irregularities come to light is the shame that the republicans used to fruad a win for Bush. It brought these to the attention of the media. Everyone is watching to ensure the Republicans don't cheat another election. They have tried to supress so many voters in so many states.

    October 28, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. David Newport, OR

    I find it interesting that of the guys I know overseas, everyone of them say they and their mates are all voting for Obama. Can't have the military supporting a way out can we?

    October 28, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. Mathew

    We placed all our eggs with the Republican party for the past eight years. I only hope now is for change and a a new direction. GO OBAMA!

    October 28, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Michelle

    The "undecided voters" are voting for McCain.

    October 28, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. Lu

    mary, colorado springs – Rather, must be the democrats are behind it. 70% of the troops are voting for McCain; naturally, he is one of them.

    October 28, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |

    How to increase demand?
    Ans: If income of people increases and they have higher buying power, then demand can increase.

    How to increase income?
    Ans: 1. Lower taxes.
    2. Govt spending (appropriately) leads to more labors needed for
    projects and more biz. for suppliers of raw materials and
    3. (1) and (2) lead to job creations and this cycle enhances
    increase in demands.

    October 28, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
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