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. get real, Bill, VA

    To Bill, VA

    How is it that a standing law is "Obama's people's" fault? Don't insult us military folks by casually throwing around blame.

    October 27, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. ???

    So this was a law put into place by Republicans back in 2002, but yet people still blame Democrats?

    Ignorance is bliss!

    October 27, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  3. Change?

    Obama lied to the people of Illinois (he never lowered taxes like he promised to get him elected)!
    Obama lied about his relationships with: Ayers, Rezco, Rev. Wright......................
    Obama has changed his stance (lied) on most major issues that won him the primary!
    Obama knows he can't raise anyone's taxes Rich, or lower taxes on the Poor with our economy the way it is right now. But you think he is going to tell you the truth?
    Heck no! He want's to get elected! Then he will come up with reasons why he couldn't keep his promises once he is in office (but only if asked), but most likely will
    Just ignore you.
    Obama never takes responsibility for any Gaffs or errors he makes on the campaign trail. He will either say to the people, "You Weren't Listening!", or blame his staff!
    Obama voted present when in the Senate just to keep his hands clean, and not be responsible for any negative aftermath's of his votes. All carefully planned to win the white
    Now, how can any of you Obama suporters think that Obama is going to keep one promise he told you? You are nobody to him. Your just another step stone to the
    Presidency for him

    October 27, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  4. ohio

    ya maybe GOP needs people to vote.... If anyone votes for Obama GOP will change the votes to mccain

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


    October 27, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. Cleopatra Jones

    Did anyone notice that on "Meet the press" on Sunday morning after viewing the clip of Russ Limbaugh , with his racial comments in regards to Collin Powell's endorsment of Sen: Obama .

    Sen: McCain was asked if Russ Limbaugh is right , up until now Sen: McCain has not answere the question .

    I think he did not answere because he is completely in aggreement with Russ Limbaugh .

    October 27, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  7. KJL

    Rokey Suleman has discovered the pain of a catch-22.

    Sometimes nobody is to blame, but someone always gets the finger pointed at them. This must be corrected, and it shouldn't be an issue whether you favor Obama or McCain.

    October 27, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  8. shadowgovt

    Gee, whaddya know? More vote fraud issues in states where Obama has built up a lead!

    October 27, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. Matt

    @ robin: Generally speaking, the absence of evidence that something is true is evidence that it is not true. Ergo, the obvious absence of any FACTS and any accompanying reporting that Obama is a "Marxist," as you so quaintly and uneducatedly put it (hint: read about Marxism ebfore you talk abotu it), is, in fact, EVIDENCE that he is not a Marxist. Wrap your head around that one. You guys are insane if you think you can revive McCarthyism outside of your little circles of people who still use the word "commy."

    October 27, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. bill

    for gods sake anything mccain and repubs want to cry about now.just get out of the way old man and moose barbie.i am sooo sick of both of you .YOUR LIEING CHEATING STEALING VOTES WONT WORK THIS TIME. OBAMA 08

    October 27, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. -K&H-

    Question is was it raciest when the last 43 presidents were white and blacks voted or didn't vote for that candidate. Amazingly enough people are so sterotypical and think that just because we have a black/ mixed President bad things will come upon the USA. Not going to happen. Last time I looked most people feared blacks as they walk on the street next to them. Even tough they don't know them. Yes sterotypes play a big role in how we view good and bad. White is good Black is bad. Why is that people? Get it right the best man for the job is just Obama/Biden 08. Period.

    October 27, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. Nomorehate

    In this case, I'm for enforcing the spirit of the law–the votes should count if there weren't instructions explaining the law on the ballots or applications. The state of our election process should trouble Democrats and Republicans alike–everyone's vote should count and no one should be trying to suppress votes or frighten people into not voting. I think we need some stricter Federal standards to guide and unify the voting process. Also, counting the ballots should not be led by someone in a partisan position. Don't get me started!

    Obama / Biden '08

    October 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. xddy4u

    The GOP need to own up to the fact that they blew this Election. Starting with McCain. McCain's Experience and Military Record looked good on paper against Obama's Resume. But what every one didn't factor in was the Generation X crowd. They could care less about Experience or the Military. They wanted a Voice, and Obama gave them that voice. Now they are speaking loud and clear to the Baby Boomers,"get your old prejudice butts out the way, this is a NEW DAY". As For the Blacks, they hadn't been under ONE common cause since Martin Luther King's march on Washington, some 40 years ago. This Election belongs to the DEM period.

    October 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  14. Welcome to Cubamerica

    In my latest poll of polls. CNN will be defunct and off the air within 6 months due to lack of ratings and biased reporting.

    October 27, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. Debbie in Los Angeles

    Hillary Supporter? I am not "teribbly young" (53 years young) nor "easily swayed," but YOU MUST be for voting for McShame just because Hillary wasn't nominated!

    Obama-Biden in '08!

    October 27, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Change?

    Want to know the difference between Liberals (democrats), and Conservatives (Republicans)? Liberals want and or need the government to be their mommy and daddy and to take care of everything for them!
    Conservatives want to be grown ups and be in charge of their own lives!

    October 27, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  17. Gail AL.

    SURPRISE, SURPRISE. You would think we could have an election. We can send a man to the moon, but can't have a fair election. There will be disputes on the nov. 4, and we won't know the winner till Christmas. All the fradulent ballots sent in by ACORN, ALL THE OVERSEA'S BALLOTS, FROM SERVICE MEN, IF Obama doesn't win they will recount untill he does. Then we will have a socialist for president. Everyone who votes for Obama, deserves what they get.

    October 27, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. Lucy

    Well, guess it says something when the first thing I do after reading the article is to "google" to see if it is a Democrat or a Republican in charge of Virginia. I guess I have been a just a little disillusioned from 8 years of Republican rule. My first thought was "what dirty tricks are the Republicans trying to pull again". The good news is that at least the governor is a Democrat. The bad news it that I can't trust any Republican to do the right thing anymore. They have earned their reputation ever since Watergate and every election since including swift boat ads, 2004 Florida Scandal and other dirty politics that have become embedded with our country's voting history and that doesn't even take into account what George Bush Jr. and the Republicans did to our economy. I just cannot give a Republican the benefit of the doubt anymore. However, CNN reporting that I am not the only one who has lost their trust in the Republican party.

    October 27, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Patti

    They need to count the votes if these votes are truely from Militiary men and women they have every right to vote. They are risking their lives for this country so LET THEIR VOTES COUNT.

    October 27, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  20. Karen, Arkansas

    Another Flordia? God help us!

    October 27, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  21. Sad voter in Arizona

    Kate October 27th, 2008 5:08 pm ET

    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!

    Unfortunately, it has happened before. (Florida 2000 is one example).

    Reasonable people can find a way around this. Let's see if we can find any reasonable people.

    October 27, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  22. Matt


    The FACTS are not biased, they just universally have not supported yoru candidate's behavior or positions in this election. Reporting FACTS is therefore not biased. On the other hand, reporting that IGNORES FACTS and FABRICATES "FACTS" (such as claiming Obama is a socialist) is the very definition of biased. Anyone who doesn't believe me shoudl take an evening to watch FOX...they are seriously off the wall. I'm not even sure they should be allowed to call it news without being charged with fraud.

    October 27, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. Mr. Amabo(MLK)

    4 out of 10 "Die Hard" Republicans in Virginia said that they were voting for Obama. Simply because they don't like Palin, McCain wanted to "destroy" everything in his last debate, Palin seems like she doesn't read the news paper much, and does not know what the role of the VP is, McCain's age is weighted factor, McCain IS AFRAID of Palin(Letting her say and do whatever she wants), there's is no team effort between the 2...AND...US needs to show the world that they can let go of the PAST, make a "Change".

    $150,000 in clothing?? This isn't Cinderella 2 Folks.
    Suppose McCain were past away in the whitehouse? Will America let someone who doesn't know a simply weekly "Weather Forcast" run the show? Where's the Brains?

    This isn't 2nd Grade Teacher Interview, this is America!
    Vote Correctly, it's not showtime, or making a fool of yourself on SNL...it's about America's Economy, Health, and Overall Standing within the World.

    Srand Up for what is Right,
    and Make The best and most Wise Decision that you can live with for the next 4 years.

    October 27, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  24. krista

    im for mccain/palin

    October 27, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. Washington Voter

    If Obama is a socialist then Ronald Reagen and Dwight Eisenhower where bigger socialists.

    Obama wants a 46%
    Top marginal tax rate
    50% under Reagan and the 91% under Eisenhower

    Argue that one GOP

    October 27, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
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