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)






    October 27, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  2. We love Sarah

    SOCIALISTS! October 27th, 2008 5:06 pm ET

    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!

    The first smart this spoken on this blog!!!!!!!

    October 27, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  3. Red, Red WHINE!!

    Change? October 27th, 2008 5:42 pm ET

    Want to know the difference between Liberals (democrats), and Conservatives (Republicans)? Conservatives want to ruin the economy so that their sons and daughters have to take care of them, as well as everyone else. And they want to kill their children, as well as yours, in wars for no reason.

    Democrats want to be grown ups and fix the defecit that the republicans have made a disaster of! They also want to responsibly end unneeded wars. And they don't want our children to have to take care of the mommy and daddy republicans that have ruined the nation!

    October 27, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  4. bubby dunni

    the thing is that the vote that matters, first and foremaost

    October 27, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  5. true values

    more voter fraud from the GOP.


    October 27, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  6. Jasmine in Germany

    This is sad for the voters. I think their votes should count, they're not the ones who made the mistakes in this situation.

    October 27, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  7. Edmund

    We need to bend over backwards to make sure the people fighting for our country have their votes heard. Simple as that.

    I am glad John McCain made us aware of this.

    October 27, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. Larry

    I'm sure the votes are going to be counted–McCain/Palin appreciate it.

    October 27, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  9. Former PUMA

    My husband is active duty army and currently in Iraq. Luckily we are NC residents. I will tell you that almost his entire unit, and just about everyone in Camp Bucca that he talk to, are voting Obama this year. Service members are weary, families are stressed to the point of breaking, equipment is failing, and Obama is seen by service members as a way to end this. This is my husbands third tour. McCain is in for a big unhappy surprise if he thinks he can depend on the military vote this time around.

    October 27, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  10. Caligirl

    I think the UN should step in and monitor our elections; we've had it done to other nations, why are we any different?

    If we (the Americans )can't behave on our own accord and honestly conduct elections, then we need a babysitter for each election.

    October 27, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. vw

    Only you Senator McCain can PROTECT USA at this critical moment, but the problem is how can you awake american people?

    Look like american people got drunken and behaves the same as those peope in north korea or those in China mainland 40 years ago.

    How can american people regard OB as the god??? Crazy

    October 27, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  12. mitch

    republicans are trying to make a mockery of our election process again. they will fail, because they cant overcome the overwhelming turnout for the best president ever. president barack hussein obama.

    October 27, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  13. JAY N.H.

    This is an unbelievable law can't the legislature hold a special session or something to overturn this. Every lgitamate vote should count reguardless of party affiliation.

    October 27, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  14. Ken in NC

    HILLARY SUPPORTER, you must have more racist space between your ears than "Airhead Palin". While my vote for Obama was not because he is Black, what if it was. Is not my vote my choice? All my adult life I voted for the White man I considered to be the best candidate. Was it racist or a display of a lack of intelligence that I chose one of the White candidates?

    What if we were a nation of Blacks in the majority and now Whites in the minority have what you consider to be a qualified candidate. Would it be racist in that case that you voted for that White candidate for the first time in the history of this nation. Lady you need to take a chill pill and get over it.

    October 27, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  15. Betty777

    People of American, be very clear the Republicans will cheat any way that they can. A liar will cheat. Keep your eyes and ears open and report intimidation, stuffed ballot boxes, rigged machines. Remember 2000 and 2004?

    October 27, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  16. carol

    You know what makes me laugh every election is how after 4 years after the last one here we are still having problems one way or another!!
    Why does everything when it comes to something as simple as putting an...X...filling in a blank....mailing ballots in....absentee ballots...etc etc cause so many problems!!!!!
    It is beyond me how someone can't come up with a REAL SIMPLE SOLUTION for people just to cast a vote for God's sake..... how difficult can it be???
    Wouldn't we all like just one election year to go without a hitch and not have....votes not counted....voters being suppressed...made up names...voter fraud and the list goes on and on......how long have elections been around for heavens sake.
    Someone somewhere must have a better, easier way of voting than this mess we have to go through every 4 years......it is really frustrating.
    Having said all that.....I hope ALL the votes for Sen Obama are counted as we know what happened only 4 years ago with Bush...we need this election to be over and Sen Obama to become President.


    October 27, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. Willy Brown

    All ballots in VA will be counted! Tuff luck Arab Obama

    October 27, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  18. vera in VA

    Virginia has never had voting problems before we require a valid ID and the military votes have always been counted . Is Obama using his supporter Gov Pain to help him suppress the votes of the military??? Hmmm?

    October 27, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  19. TexasVet

    Some of you Republicans have SERIOUS PROBLEMS! Why do you drink whatever flavor of Kool Aid McCain and Palin give you? You do so love your labels don't you. Does labeling others make you feel superior? Socialist, Marxist, Terrorist blah blah blah! You say the Democrats want the government to be their parents and take care of them. You also imply they are irresponsible children who if given the keys to the kingdom will go on a crazy spending spree like kids in a candy shop. That's talking out of both sides of your mouth. What I want to know is why do you think you are the morally superior, financially superior, religiously superior and in many cases RACIALLY superior. Why is that? Why do you think YOU are the chosen ones? Why do you think YOU should run the country? Look... you had your turn, give us a chance to fix the huge mess you've made of this country.

    Obama/Biden 08!

    October 27, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  20. Caligirl

    To all the idiots that calim this is an Obama scam, wake up!!!
    The Repugs are the one's that stole the last two elections, not the Dems. I firmly beleive we need a UN babysitter to keep the Repugs in check.

    October 27, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. Marcus

    October 27th, 2008 5:58 pm ET

    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.

    Hey Joe:
    "rich educated"...that's a joke right? "arnt" you the educated one! Spell it slowly with me A R E N ' T now, aren't you feeling better?
    It's not that we can't unclog a toilet, it's just that we don't stoop low enough to unclog toilets for 35K a yr.

    October 27, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  22. Bubba Nicholson

    Let the soldiers vote, for crying out loud!

    October 27, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  23. Simmy


    October 27, 2008 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |



    October 27, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  25. Dan from Philly

    Change? writes:

    "blah-blah-blah-same-trumped-up-and-already-disproven-charges-blah blah blah

    Now, how can any of you Obama suporters think that Obama is going to keep one promise he told you?"

    See, Change? has spoken so who are you to doubt what was said?!?


    October 27, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
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