WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan and its chief elections officials to help ensure that military service members, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in Michigan’s Aug. 7, 2012, federal primary election and Sept. 5, 2012, federal special primary election.
The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in the Western District of Michigan. The department brought this enforcement action in response to the state’s failure to send absentee ballots to hundreds of Michigan’s eligible military and overseas voters for the Aug. 7, 2012, federal primary election and the Sept. 5, 2012, federal special primary election by the 45th day prior to those elections, as required by UOCAVA.
The United States seeks an order requiring the state of Michigan to ensure that military and overseas voters will have sufficient opportunity to receive, cast and return their ballots in time to be counted by extending the deadline for the receipt of ballots from affected UOCAVA voters. For the Aug. 7, 2012, federal primary election, the suit also requests an order requiring Michigan to provide affected voters who have not received their ballots alternative options for expedited delivery of their ballots.
“Our armed forces, their families and overseas citizens deserve a meaningful opportunity to fully participate in our nation’s elections,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This suit seeks relief to ensure that Michigan’s military and overseas voters will be provided the opportunity guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming August and September elections.”
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Patrick Miles said, “This office will vigorously enforce federal laws that protect the rights of eligible Michigan voters to participate in federal elections. Americans have fought and died for the right to vote. We must ensure eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their vote and for it to count.”
UOCAVA requires states to allow uniformed service voters (serving both overseas and within the United States) and their families as well as overseas citizens to register to vote and to vote absentee for all elections for federal office. In 2009, Congress enacted the MOVE Act, which made broad amendments to UOCAVA, including the requirement that states transmit absentee ballots to voters covered under UOCAVA, by mail or electronically at the voter’s option, no later than 45 days before federal elections.
The lawsuit also seeks relief requiring Michigan to closely monitor and certify its cities’ and townships’ transmission of UOCAVA ballots and to provide reports to the United States about its UOCAVA compliance, including the transmission of ballots for the upcoming Nov. 6, 2012, federal general election. In addition, the lawsuit requests that Michigan take the actions necessary to ensure it fully complies with UOCAVA in future federal elections.
More information about UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/misc/activ_uoc.php. Please report any complaints to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.