WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama and its chief election official seeking relief to help ensure that military servicemembers, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in Alabama’s March 13, 2012, federal primary election.
The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in Montgomery, Ala. The suit alleges that the state failed to transmit absentee ballots to many of Alabama’s eligible military and overseas voters for the March 13, 2012, primary election in sufficient time for those voters to receive, cast and return their ballots in time to be counted. It also alleges that state procedures are inadequate to ensure that such voters can participate fully in the state’s April 24, 2012, primary run-off election, should one be necessary. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the state to take all steps necessary to ensure that all affected UOCAVA voters are afforded a full opportunity to participate in the upcoming federal primary elections and all future federal elections.
“Our uniformed servicemembers and overseas citizens deserve a meaningful opportunity to participate in the elections of our nation’s leaders,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This suit seeks relief to ensure that Alabama’s military and overseas voters, many of whom are members of our armed forces and their families serving our country around the world, will have their votes counted not only in the state’s upcoming primary elections, but all future federal elections as well.”
“Servicemembers make sacrifices for our country day in and day out,” said George L. Beck, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. “Our office is committed to ensuring that the state of Alabama understands their obligations to comply with UOCAVA and ensure that military voters, as well as U.S. citizens who are overseas, are given the opportunity to vote while serving this country.”
UOCAVA requires states to allow uniformed service voters (serving both overseas and within the United States) and their families and 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. Among those changes was a 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 action was necessary because Alabama failed to mail ballots to many of its military and overseas citizens until after UOCAVA’s deadline of Jan. 28, 2012, the 45th day before this year’s primary election. The requested relief will help ensure that Alabama’s military and overseas voters have sufficient time to receive, mark and return their ballots in upcoming and future elections.
More information about UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/voting/misc/activ_uoc.htm . Complaints may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.