October 27th, 2008
04:40 PM ET
14 years ago

Virginia has issue with some overseas ballots

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/27/art.macfairfax1027.gi.jpg caption="Sen. McCain campaigned in Fairfax County, Virginia last month. His campaign has recently sought to bring attention to a Virginia law that may cause some overseas ballots from military members to be rejected."]
(CNN) – “I am getting e-mails from people offering to buy my tombstone,” Fairfax County Registrar Rokey Suleman said Monday about the brewing controversy over his decision to comply with a Virginia law regarding a small class of absentee ballots for next week’s presidential election.

The ballots have fallen victim to the interplay between state and federal law and a rare set of factual circumstances. 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

As of Saturday night, Fairfax County, Virginia has received 63 absentee ballot applications that are subject to the legal snag and 6 or 7 of those 63 appear to be from members of the U.S. military, according to Suleman.

“I hate the law. I absolutely hate the law. The law’s ridiculous. The law needs to be changed,” Suleman told CNN. But as he reads the statute, he has no choice but to reject the ballots unless and until state officials tell him differently.

Click here to read more about Suleman's position on the law

Linda Lindberg, Suleman’s counterpart in nearby Arlington County, has not received any absentee ballots yet that would be covered by the Virginia law and she concedes that Suleman’s reading of the law is technically correct. But the Arlington County Registrar says that if she was confronted with the situation, she would accept the ballots. “Our position is this is just common sense,” Lindberg said Monday, pointing out that Virginia’s requirement to provide the witness’s address is not on the ballot form and not in the ballot’s instructions. “Why should we be penalizing the voter for something they know nothing about?,” Lindberg added.

The McCain campaign and members of the military from Virginia held a press conference about the problem late last week and the Virginia State Board of Elections is aware of the conflict.

The state board “is working with the Office of the Attorney General to conduct a detailed review of both laws to guarantee that no undue hardship is placed upon voters who use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot,” an October 25 press release on the Board’s Web site says.

“Everyone involved is taking a closer look at both Federal and State laws to ensure that every effort is made to count the votes,” the Board’s Secretary Nancy Rodrigues says in the release.

The problem with overseas ballots caught up between the state and federal requirements is set to be addressed at the Board’s October 28 meeting.

If you have any problems or concerns about voting, CNN would like to hear about them. Call CNN’s voter hotline at 1-877-GOCNN-08 (1-877-462-6608) to report your problem.

Filed under: Virginia • Voter Problems
soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. hurriCAIN PALIN

    '08 – '16

    October 27, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  2. Mollie B.

    The Republicans have proven how vicious and untruthful they are. They will say and do anything to attract a vote. Just wait, I look for voting machines to malfunction or the "chads" will fall the right way. They will stop at nothing to get their way.
    Hopefully, OBAMA WILL WIN THIS ELECTION, If not, McCain and the good ole boys pulled off another one.

    October 27, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Cynthia; Bham

    Shame on them – they should let their votes count.

    October 27, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |

    For all the idiots who are falling for this "socialism" crap..

    Obama's plan is to redistribute the DEBT burden, not wealth. Money is not going to anyone, it goes to paying off the national debt created by Bush!

    McCain's plan gives a REWARD to those who created this economic disaster!

    WAKE UP!

    October 27, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Jim

    Are we ever going to figure out how to proceed with an orderly, accurate election process? What a circus.

    October 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. Zeppo

    What difference does it make? Elections are decided on the news before we vote.

    All you have to do is watch MSOBC for five minutes and you become an obamabot.

    October 27, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. Kate

    You can't be serious. A state would actually deny our men and women in service their right to vote because of faulty forms by the feds.

    Enough already!

    October 27, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Obama/Biden 08!

    OMG!! Beaurocracy tripping over itself, for god sake except the state made a boo boo on the ballots and fix the error on new ballots you can issue here after and lets get this election over with all ready!!


    October 27, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. tim in wa.

    and here we go....

    October 27, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. Latina-Indepedent-4-OBAMA

    I am glad to see that CNN has been encouraging people with voting issues to get in touch with them! There is a lot of 'shady' stuff going on!

    CNN, posted the previous article in the "political ticker" should be on YOUR HOME PAGE............ planning to kill Sen. Obama is disturbing.


    HATE BREEDS HATE. WE ......NEED.........HOPE!

    October 27, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  11. Nimi from NY

    I heard Gov Kain talk about this issue on MSNBC Meet the Joe this morning. They are seriously considering what to do in this case. I am sure they will reach a better conclusion on this issue. Every vote counts. The Republicans think that the issue favors them more than it does the Democrats. I am sure if they know that it's the other way around this time around. Most military personnel are voting for Obama this time.

    October 27, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. ran

    Here is comes folks. We have got to vote in such #'s that the court will not have to get involved. We can not allow this election to go to a republican leaning court. Not this time.

    People vote for Obama/Biden to get our country back from the likes of Stevens/Palin/Bush/McCain and other republicans.

    October 27, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  13. DUH

    Come watch America fall apart at the seams on Nov 4!

    It seems we are incapable of figuring out how to vote.

    I say put Steve Jobs on it!

    October 27, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  14. Matt

    Sooooo basically, McCain and the Reps are all for technically illegal ballots that might help him, but they are trying hard to enforce laws (think Ohio) that have been proven by scientific studies to result in unnecessary culling of valid registered voters. BIG SUPRISE.

    Let 'em ALL vote I say. Let it ring.

    October 27, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. Bill, Va

    This is Obama's people suppressing the military vote because they know we are 70-30 McCain. This cannot and will not stand.

    October 27, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. mbg

    Why i svoting so freakin hard this isnt brain surgery for God sakes count the votes. Sometimes I wonder how we ever learned to walk upright!

    October 27, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. dave

    I'm sure McCain and the Republican party is outraged that such cases of voter fraud continue to plague our great democracy.

    October 27, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. Hillary supporter now for McCain/Palin

    BO is bound to win with over 99% of blacks voting for him; many of whom have never voted.

    Is this racism?

    Why would anyone of any intelligence vote for someone who is inexperienced, and arrogant to boot.

    The others voting for BO must be terribly young and easily swayed by a charismatic individual.

    October 27, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  19. Who?

    Here's one case that the Democrats will favor state's rights as opposed to federal oversight.

    October 27, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  20. Independent but Leaning

    Dems, let's count the military vote. Even if you hate the military, can't we at least agree that they have the right to vote?

    I mean, if dead people and the muppets can vote, surely you can allow our fighting en and women to cast their ballot.

    October 27, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. bob in L.A.

    how about a show of hands- counted by 6 people at a polling place, then ratified? Its got to be more accurate than what we have AND enviormentally friendly! Of course I'm kidding, but not by much!

    October 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. Obama Supporter from FL

    That is disgusting. I hope you Virginians feel really good about your leaders in Virginia taking away the rights of our servicemen and women to vote.

    I guess they can shed blood and die for us but they aren't good enough to vote, huh?

    Today, I would be ashamed to be a citizen of Virginia.

    October 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. Rick

    More attempts by the lying, cheating democrats to try to steal the election.

    October 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  24. Ken in LA

    Here we go again!!

    October 27, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  25. Not sleeping at the switch

    100% Chance that the GOP will raise questions and make charges in EVERY State that is Close or Lost by them.

    They did it so they expect EVERYONE to cheat.

    Not needed GOP, it will not be close even WITH your Cheating

    October 27, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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