WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Guam and its election officials seeking emergency relief to help ensure that military service members and other U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in the Nov. 2, 2010, federal general election.
The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in Hagatna, Guam. The department also filed a motion for emergency relief seeking additional time – until Nov. 15, 2010, – for receipt of absentee ballots to ensure eligible military and overseas voters have sufficient time to receive, cast and return their ballots and to have their votes counted. The suit also requests an order requiring Guam officials to take steps to ensure that military and overseas voters have the option of receiving their blank absentee ballots by email.
“Our uniformed service members and other 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 both immediate and permanent relief to ensure that Guam’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 in the upcoming, and future, federal elections.”
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 Guam failed to mail ballots to its military and overseas citizens until between Sept. 27, 2010, and Oct. 1, 2010, well beyond UOCAVA’s deadline of Sept. 18, 2010, the 45th day before this year’s general election. Guam also did not timely establish procedures to offer voters the option of receiving their ballots electronically. The requested extension of the deadline for counting UOCAVA ballots will ensure military and overseas voters have a 45-day period to receive, mark and return their ballots.
More information about UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.usdoj.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.