The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Vermont and its chief election official to help ensure that military service members, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in the Nov. 6, 2012 federal general election.
The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in Vermont, in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont. The department brought this enforcement action after the state failed to send more than 20 percent of the absentee ballots requested by Vermont’s military and overseas voters for the Nov. 6, 2012 federal general election by the 45th day prior to the election, as required by UOCAVA. The United States seeks an order requiring the state of Vermont 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 until Nov. 16, 2012, for the receipt of ballots from affected UOCAVA voters. The lawsuit also seeks relief requiring Vermont to notify affected UOCAVA voters, to provide reports to the United States about Vermont’s compliance with UOCAVA, and to take all necessary actions to ensure UOCAVA compliance in future federal elections.
“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. “ We are filing this lawsuit to ensure that Vermont’s military and overseas voters will be provided the full 45 days guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming November general election. ”
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.
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.