Justice Department Announces Lawsuit to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Georgia
The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia and its chief election official seeking relief to help ensure that military service members, their family members and U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in Georgia’s Aug. 21, 2012, federal primary runoff election and all future federal runoff elections.
The lawsuit, brought under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), was filed in federal district court in Atlanta. The lawsuit alleges that Georgia’s procedures are inadequate to ensure that its eligible military and overseas voters can participate fully in the state’s Aug. 21, 2012, federal primary runoff election, should one be necessary. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring Georgia to take all steps necessary to ensure that all affected UOCAVA voters are afforded a full opportunity to participate in the upcoming federal primary runoff election and all future federal elections.
“Our uniformed service members and overseas citizens deserve a full opportunity to participate in all elections of our nation’s leaders including runoff elections for federal office in states where they are held” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This suit seeks relief to ensure that Georgia’s military and overseas voters, many of whom are members of our armed forces and their families serving our country around the world, will be provided the opportunity guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming primary runoff election, as well as all future federal runoff elections.”
“We are committed to protecting the right of Georgia service members, including those serving our country overseas, to vote in our elections,” said Sally Quillian Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
UOCAVA requires states to allow uniformed services 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 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (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 under Georgia’s election calendar official runoff election ballots will not be available to be sent until after UOCAVA’s deadline of July 7, 2012, the 45th day before this year’s primary runoff election. The requested relief will help ensure that Georgia’s service members and overseas voters will be able to have their votes counted in the upcoming primary runoff election, and that the right UOCAVA provides to be sent a ballot 45 days in advance of an election is guaranteed in all future runoff elections for federal office.
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. Complaints may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.