WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Connecticut officials to help ensure that military and overseas voters have an opportunity to participate fully in the state’s Aug. 8, 2006, federal primary election.
The agreement, which was filed contemporaneously with a lawsuit by the Civil Rights Division, creates emergency procedures for next week’s primary to ensure eligible military and overseas voters have sufficient time to cast and return their ballots and to have their ballots counted.
“Our brave military servicemembers and citizens abroad certainly have earned the right to participate in our elections,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I am pleased that state officials in Connecticut have agreed to measures that will allow their votes to count for the August 8, 2006 primary -- as well as pledging to work with the Department to ensure that goal for all future elections.”
The lawsuit was necessary because election officials in many towns failed to mail requested absentee ballots to Connecticut’s military and overseas citizens in sufficient time for them to vote in the federal primary election. "While it may take special effort and coordination to send ballots to Americans living and serving overseas, it is an effort that must not be ignored," U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O'Connor stated. "Today's filing in U.S. District Court shows that the federal government is prepared to act when election officials fail in their responsibility to give every eligible voter access to our democratic process."
The agreement, which was approved by the federal district court in New Haven today, allows eligible military and overseas voters who did not receive an absentee ballot to download and return a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, provides extra time for the receipt, and requires counting of ballots and media publicity regarding these provisions.
The lawsuit was brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires states to allow uniformed services voters and other overseas citizens to register to vote and vote absentee for all elections for federal office. The Justice Department has brought numerous suits under UOCAVA to ensure that voters are not deprived of an opportunity to vote due to late mailing of absentee ballots by election officials. In 2004, the Department obtained emergency orders in Pennsylvania and Georgia to remedy similar late mailing problems. Both states have since adopted remedial legislation to ensure long-term UOCAVA compliance and resolve the lawsuits. The Department also recently remedied structural problems with the primary run-off timetables in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. After suit was filed, North Carolina entered into a voluntary agreement with the Civil Rights Division on an emergency plan to address the issue for the 2006 primary elections, and Alabama and South Carolina adopted remedial legislation to resolve these UOCAVA violations.
More information about the UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/misc/activ_uoc.htm. Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.