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. tired of delusional blind sheep

    so.. the military vote is for mccain,, so they get to continue killing and being killed.. its what they are born to do right... well, not on my dime. i want health insurance and benefits for those soldiers so that they can live happy , healthy lives for their families and children... who need them more than the neoconservatives and the haliburtons of the world do....

    and yeah, they can vote.. why blame obama for a faulty system that was already in place before this election. why exactly is this so complicated...???

    October 27, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  2. Fighting ignorance

    Dead people and muppets may have registered, but they will certainly not vote. No voting fraud has taken place, only fools registering non existent people. I wish you people would stop repeating everything you are told by the television, and start thinking for yourselves.

    And seriously?? Only people who are not intelligent would vote for Obama? I wish you were smarter than that.

    October 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. j

    Actually, veterns support McCain by a wide margin but actively serving military personale and families support Obama by over 25 points. Why? Because McCain voted against the new GI Bill and help for military families who will receive tax cuts under Obama's plan.

    October 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. American

    All of you claiming Democrats don't like the military are plain ingorant. I'm a War veteran and DO NOT appreciate the language being used by Americans towards Americans. Nonsense..... Come together as ONE.
    Those who serve are ONE....why can't Americans stand as they do?

    October 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Matt

    To "Hillary supporter now for McCain/Palin:"

    How ironic. I'd argue that arrogance is believing that anybody who has a different opinion than you is unintelligent.

    Luckily, this era of arrogance, where anybody who dares to believe that the Ultra-Conservative establishment is wrong is "un-American," is about to end.

    October 27, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. The Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    I would hope that Virginia the mother of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the US Constitution would not have vote issues with the military vote.

    The men and women of military need their voices heard and in heard in the form of a ballot.

    To withhold their vote due to some obscure regulation is outrageous. That is probably because some Obama Pacifist is grading the ballot. Give me a break.

    October 27, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  7. Voice of Reason

    Boy, here we go again. The RNC's "sincere" interest in counting ballots is limited only to those they feel are in their favor. See the stolen 2000 election. Once again they are engaging in every dirty trick they can to scrub new registrants and minority registrants off the list, while screaming bloody murder if that same rule is evenly applied.

    October 27, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  8. Dennis

    Everyone should relax before they start blaming anyone for this matter.

    I hope everything that can be done is in an effort to cout t he votes of soldiers serving overseas. I cannot imagine having to explain to them that their vote for Commander in Chief didn't count due to an error with the ballot.

    October 27, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  9. Greg, Houston, Tx

    Let's see. I read the same story and I didn't see any of the crap that is being spewed here. Let them vote, count the votes and the chips fall where they may.

    By the way, Proud vet and proud Democrat here.

    October 27, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. Carolyn Green

    Dead people and muppets can't vote. They can register, but they can't vote. When a registration is filled out, those taking the registration have to know matter what name is on the registration. It is then discarded as being non-viable. Only those that have been verified can vote. Also, without a witness, anyone can fill out the absentee balot.

    October 27, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  11. An independent

    The facts of this story are far different than those reported this morning on Morning Joe. They alleged this morning that there were 250 such ballots. Boy they sure know how to stir up a crowd. They also reported the Rep. Tom Davis of the 11th district in Virginia slammed the guy for throwing out ballots yet registering legal voters that have been incarcerated. Mr. Davis and his partisan hacks can not have it both ways. Either you want the guy to follow the law or you don't. It has been these transparent attempts by the GOP over the last 8 years that has caused people to loss faith in what they say. Now they have no credibility. We can not longer believe anything they say, because 90 per cent of the time it is not in the best interest of the American people but rather in the short term interest of their party.

    If Mr. Sluman did not follow the law, he would be in violation of the law, and who does that help? No one. If they come up with a reasonable plan, under the law, I am sure Mr. Suleman will be happy to accept that plan.

    October 27, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Tiff of lithia springs



    October 27, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Charlie Bradley

    Hillary supporter now for McCain/Palin:

    Yes your remarks are racist. DO SOME RESEARCH and you will find that of the ten states with the lowest African American population, five of those are currently being carried by Barack Obama.

    I'm a WHITE voter in the state of Georgia....not young, not old, just a year and two months shy of 30. I know how to reseach, read the issues, read the debates, and make an informed decision and vote for Obama

    Anyone who believes that voters are making their decisions solely based on RACE, SHOULD have their eligibility to vote, STRIPPED!!

    October 27, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. mary

    I think it is important for everyone's vote to count. These stupid little oversights on both sides of aisle are keeping people from their rights as a citizen.

    October 27, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. PM

    Well it's finally happened! I was wondering what took so long? Republicans have finally found another loop hole in the voting system to guarantee their win! Another Gore and Bush Election! I don't doubt for one minute that McCain's Camp designed this ballot intentionally! Don't be surprised to hear other States have also been affected!

    If they get away with this you can expect more than gun totting twenty year old vigilantees ploting to Kill Obama they'll be plotting in much greater numbers! I hope John is proud of himself. This plot falls directly on his and Palin's shoulders. They knew or should have that their Vicious racist inciting speeches at their rallys would lead to this! I hope Americans can now see Who The Real John McCain is! Obama is Saint Christopher next to "the other one." Boy Winning must be real important for McCain!

    October 27, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  16. SC

    You don't have to warn voters of the possibility of white house, the House and the Senate being under the Democratic control. Go back and sleep soundly tonight and wait for your defeat on Nov. 4. This is not the first time the country will be under the Democratic control and definitely, this won't be the last. You know why polls are indicating you are currently losing? We are much smarter than you and the third grader combined. And thus, you won't get our vote.

    Obama/Biden 08 and beyond......

    October 27, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. Glenn Doty, Columbia, SC

    So now the legal portion of this process begins.

    Let's re-itterate one VITAL point here before we get all bent out of shape one way or another:

    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.

    So... We're talking, so far, about 63 votes, only 7 of which are military.

    I'm fine with letting every military personel (which will likely break ~70-30 for McCain) get a vote irregardless, and squelching the vote of every non-military overseas ballot (which will likely break ~70-30 for Obama) who doesn't follow the law.

    That should satisfy the McCain fans... and give them a few hundred votes advantage. The last poll showed Obama with a 10% advantage, which equals hundreds of thousands. We can afford to give a few hundred votes advantage to the McCain camp just to get them to shut up and stop whining.

    What say everyone?

    October 27, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. Chip

    Give me a break right wingers! We have suffred 8 miserable years after your baboozling of the 2000 election. Don't cry to us about a stolen election.

    boo hoo

    October 27, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  19. sick n tired

    The entire system of voting has been flawed since 2000!!! WAKE UP!!!

    October 27, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. David The Democrat

    As I democrat I believe these votes should be counted. I strongly support Barack Obama, but people in the military must have the right to vote. I don't have a problem checking for voter fraud, but according to Federal law, voter records cannot be purged 90 days before the election. I think our countries election system needs to be uniform in every state. Democracy and voting is not something we should take lightly.

    October 27, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. linda from South Dakota

    all it boils down to is whose the one that lies (mccain/palin) and hwose the one that is truthfull, has said the same all the way through this all and is willing to work for americans???>>>>OBAMA/BIDEN,,, it really surprizes me that so many americans still want mccain,, are they stupid or do they make over 250 thousand and are afraid their taxes may go up??? well my friends(for mccain),,, the one you plan to vote for is a liar ,, worked for bush and got his way then and will do anything now to win your vote,,, schemes and lies included... buta majority of the americans want obama who will work for us,, the americans who have paid thier taxes and still are barely making it,,,,, obama/biden,, 08 and beyond!!!!!

    October 27, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. Brian

    Leave it to the right to once again blame everything on Obama. Hello folks, this is VIRGINIA state law, one that everyone interviewed thinks needs to be fixed. How again is this the democrats trying to deny the military vote? Did Obama go back in time and write this Virginia state law? I guess if you are naive enough to listen to Palin and her anti-American BS you are the kind of person who would believe anything.

    Sad. So sad.

    October 27, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Shawn, North Carolina

    Show your IGNORANCE on nov. 4 and vote democrat.........

    McCain/Palin '08

    October 27, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Steve

    Just break the law, Thats what republicans typically do!

    October 27, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. Chele


    Republicans demand a recount, before the vote.


    We can not suppress votes, ...America needs to show the rest of the world that Democracy works!

    Obama/Biden 'o8!

    October 27, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
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