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. Voter

    Hillary Supporter for McCain/Palin;

    The "experience" arguement is meaningless...

    Experience = same mistakes they've always made and not aware of new trends, industry ideas or willingness to do anything different.

    Inexperience = amatuer mistakes, aware of new trends, new industry ideas and willingness to do something different.

    The difference between McCain/Obama to different generations is how one relates to the candidate. McCain doesn't have anything to offer generations <40 yrs old. He doesn't even use the internet (like Bush) – how can a country move forward if something so basic can't be done by its leader? Did I mention warmongerer?

    October 27, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. jaye

    The McCain and Palin hate spewing, race-baiting, terrorist, treason, socialist and communist accusations against Senator Obama are paying off for them. The skinheads are taking aim and it's because of McCain and Palin's rallies.

    October 27, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. Buckeyes

    Thank you John McCain and Sarah Palin for inciting the hate speak leading to violence with these wackadoodle nutcases!!

    October 27, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  4. Bruce

    I would think the soldiers would want to vote for Obama. The GOP is already starting the next branch of the war into Syria. Keep 'em at war. Keep 'em scared. George Orwell wrote a book about it.

    October 27, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. tom

    Hey hurriain palin
    8 more years of the same is a dream for you. The rest of us are tired of living the past 8 year nightmare of bush/cheney. america has finally woken up and will elect obam for the next 8 years!!!!!

    we will all be laughing hysterically when the landslide for the democrats start and buries what was left of the GOP.

    October 27, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  6. CM in AR

    Oh perfect, McPain doesn't want our service men and women voting!

    October 27, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  7. Reagan

    I am voting for McCain because Hillary Clinton was the ONLY candidate worth voting for and I am not afraid or ashamed to admit it.

    I never, never liked O'BAMA. He's an arrogent windbag, who needs to spend a few more years actually doing something as a Senator before he tries to claim the #1 spot.

    October 27, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. values

    Stop crying you stupid ditto heads. Mccain is a dumb bone head and deserves to loooose.

    October 27, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. MT, Texas

    I can't believe we are letting the Democrats steal this election!!! First, ACORN ... now suppression of military votes ... but I guess we are now so apathetic about how incompetent the government can be that we just let it happen.

    Well, at least that incompetent government can run our health care ... our savings plans ... and now even our banks. Pretty soon, we won't need taxes ... the Federal Bank of America will just increase their surcharges!

    October 27, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  10. Paying Attention

    Fix this problem. All votes need to be counted.

    I would be hysterical if my vote did not count.

    Note: Palin needs to apologize to Senator Obama for calling him someone who hangs out with Terriorists and a Socialist. She is causing him to be in personal danger. She stirred up the lunatics and they are starting to get dangerous. I am ashamed of her. I think her talk about who is American and who is not is disgusting. She may be the one who is truely Un-American.

    October 27, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  11. Dealt, Lisbon

    Hillary supporter (I very much doubt that)

    Blacks are voting (as so many white and whatever colour can be found in this land) for Obama. It's just natural: he inspires blacks as he does so many others. Look at the crowds behind Obama. There you can see every possible colour, not just blacks.

    And if you think as you wrote, forgetting all the blacks that voted for Clinton, then you sure belong with the almost all white crowd at McCain/ Palin's rallies. I might (am not) calling that almost all white crowds voting for two white candidates racism...

    October 27, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. Amy

    October 27th, 2008 5:15 pm ET

    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.

    Take a good look in the mirror, Hillary supporter, because you are doing the exact thing you accuse Obama supporters of doing!

    How could you be a Hillary supporter and vote for McCain/ Palin? Hillary and McCain/ Palin don't agree on ANYTHING. So, you are either very ignorant when it comes to political issues OR you are voting for a Republican because the Democratic nominee is black.

    99% of the black population isn't voting for Obama, but in your own little narrow-minded, racist world, I guess they are.

    Grow up!

    October 27, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. David, Silver Spring, MD

    Voters should not be penalized by poor ballot design.

    I think someone should contact each voter to get the required information. This clearly should not fall in the laps of those who voted and submitted all the requested information on the official ballot.

    October 27, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Ilona Hussein Proud Canadian


    I hope that the feds are doing everything in their power to find out

    October 27, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. hometowndemocrat

    This is just another ploy by the GOP to cry foul when Obama wins the Whitehouse.

    October 27, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. tim o

    They fighting to keep my rights to vote. Let them and their families vote.


    October 27, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Matt

    The funniest part of all this is people calling it voter fraud for Obama's benefit. Did you not read the article? First, it's 60+ votes. Second, it's a law that should not be enforced because absentee voters were not put on notice of the witness requirement. That's called fundamental fairness...something you Republicans should look into. Perhaps if you learn about it by watching Obama the next 4 years, you might have a chance of convincing people to elect someone from your ranks in 8.

    October 27, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  18. Praetorian

    Naturally this would be a McCain side-bar.
    He seems to think he's the heir apparent to the military vote!!

    What he fails to realize is that despite some codgers left over from the cold war and Reaganites–and a few active duty Commanders fighting for every dollar they can get from D.o.D. to fund their programs-the rank and file officers and enlisted, and many senior leaders realize change is in the wind.
    Even crusty old retirees–now struggling to maintain a standard of living while yearly earning becomes less and less despite their pensions–know our economic strategy for the nation over the past 20+ years has benefited the wealthy more than the average American.

    October 27, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Michael in Houston

    And the trickery begins. Remember folks, there is a large Naval Base there in Virginia with a lot of young people interested in coming home from this so called war on terror. I think those ballots might say Obama on them.

    October 27, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. AEL

    Who says the military is for McCain? Our military is young, often from low-income families, and from minority groups. My bet is that many are for Obama.

    October 27, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |

    To "Socialists" – doesn't MATTER whether it's redistributing wealth or debt, BOTH are money you idiot! It's still socialism, period. Barack Marx Obama will NOT win this election – WE THE PEOPLE ARE WAKING UP FINALLY. Down with the druid lib-tards.

    October 27, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  22. Wayne

    "And I think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement ...[did not] bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still suffer from that," Obama said in a 2001 recorded interview. Redistributive change means take money from workers who pay taxes and give it to the folks who don't pay taxes. That's his plan. So, if you want a handout, vote for Obama. If you want a hand up, vote for McCain.
    Simplistic? Yes. Accurate? Yes.
    And if you're voting for the handout, don't hold your breath. Bill Clinton promised the same thing when he was a candidate. His handout promise morphed into a hand in your pocket. His tax cut promise turned into a hugh tax increase right after the election. In the current meltdown it is certain Obama's promise will also morph into something very different if he is elected. For heaven's sake voters, think before you vote.

    October 27, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  23. dave

    Let the votes count. Despite what many think, active and ex-military individuals are favoring Obama by a wide margin this election year.

    October 27, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  24. Joe the plumber

    I think only registered Republicans should be allowed to vote with an overseas ballot . The Democrats are all socialists and want to tax rich educated people like myself. I bet there arnt any Democrats smart enough to unclog a toilet.

    October 27, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  25. quinton

    That is not fair. All of our military should have no problems voting at all. Virginia needs to fix this now.

    October 27, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
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