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Wednesday, October 22, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Massachusetts Secretary of State for Noncompliance with Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Massachusetts Secretary of State William Francis Galvin, to remedy violations of the Uniformed Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). UOCAVA is designed to ensure that uniformed military members and overseas citizens can effectively participate in federal elections. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, through its Secretary of State, is responsible for collecting and reporting the number of military voters and overseas citizens who are sent ballots, who return ballots, and who have the ballots successfully cast in each federal general election. Massachusetts has failed to fulfill this important legal obligation since UOCAVA was enacted in 2002.

"Accurate and complete information about whether our uniformed service members and overseas citizens are being given an effective opportunity to have their votes counted is essential to our democratic system of government," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Without it, Congress and the public cannot determine whether states are fulfilling their obligations to let uniformed service members and overseas citizens fully participate in our elections. We are pleased with Secretary of State Galvin’s cooperation and with Massachusetts’s recognition of the importance of these reporting requirements."

 The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) report is published every two years and provides data for every state and jurisdiction in the country about how many absentee ballots were transmitted to UOCAVA voters, how many were returned, and how many were cast in federal general elections.

The settlement agreement requires the Secretary of State to implement procedures to facilitate the collection and reporting of data regarding absentee ballots transmitted, returned and cast by overseas citizens, including members of the armed forces casting absentee ballots.

UOCAVA specifically mandates that States and local governments report to the EAC the combined number of absentee ballots that are transmitted to absent uniformed services voters and overseas voters for the election and the combined number of such ballots which were returned by such voters and cast in the election. The State (or Commonwealth) must do so no later than 90 days after the date of each regularly scheduled general election for federal office. The States must also make such a report available to the general public. The Justice Department has the authority to bring an action to enforce compliance by the States.

The Civil Rights Division enforces UOCAVA and the Voting Rights Act. To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including those related to UOCAVA, voters may call the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice Web site at