Justice Department Announces Agreement to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Wisconsin
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with Wisconsin officials to help ensure that military servicemembers, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in Wisconsin’s April 3, 2012, federal presidential primary election.
The agreement was filed at the same time as a lawsuit brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and signed today by the federal district court in Madison, Wis. The suit alleges that the state failed to send absentee ballots to over 200 of Wisconsin’s eligible military and overseas voters for the April 3, 2012, presidential primary election in sufficient time for those voters to receive, cast and return their ballots. The agreement provides additional time for receipt of absentee ballots to ensure eligible military and overseas voters, who requested ballots from one of the Wisconsin municipalities (at least 65) that sent ballots late, will have sufficient time to vote. Under the agreement, affected voters who have not yet received their ballots will also be offered the opportunity to receive their ballots electronically.
“As this agreement demonstrates, we will remain steadfast in our efforts to ensure that members of our armed forces, their families and overseas citizens are offered a full and meaningful opportunity to vote in our nation’s elections,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I commend the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and its executive director for working cooperatively with the department and agreeing to measures that will ensure Wisconsin’s military and overseas voters will have a full opportunity to have their votes counted in the upcoming presidential primary election as well as in future federal elections.”
“Servicemembers make tremendous sacrifices for our nation,” said John W. Vaudreuil, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. “We are committed to seeing that Wisconsin meets its obligations to ensure that military voters, as well as U.S. citizens who are overseas, are given the opportunity to cast a meaningful vote.”
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 must 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 agreement, which has been approved by the federal district court in Madison, also commits Wisconsin to closely monitor its municipalities’ UOCAVA compliance, provide assistance to its municipalities when necessary and report back to the United States about its UOCAVA compliance during the 2012 federal election cycle. In addition, the agreement requires Wisconsin to take steps to ensure compliance with UOCAVA in future federal elections and provide a report to the Department of Justice on those efforts.
More information about UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/misc/activ_uoc.php. Complaints may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.