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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Arizona Election Officials to Protect the Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Arizona Special Election

The Justice Department today announced that the United States District Court for the District of Arizona has approved an agreement between the Department and the state of Arizona to help ensure that military service members, their family members, and U.S. citizens living overseas have an opportunity to participate fully in the upcoming Feb. 27, 2018, special primary election and April 24, 2018, special general election to fill a vacancy in the state’s 8th Congressional District.  The agreement is necessary to ensure compliance with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

The agreement provides additional time for state election officials to receive and count absentee ballots from eligible UOCAVA voters, in order to ensure that such voters will have sufficient time to receive and submit their absentee ballots for the Feb. 27, 2018 special primary election.  Under the agreement, UOCAVA ballots sent back by mail will be accepted for an additional 10 days–until March 9, 2018–so long as they are executed and sent by Feb. 27, 2018 and otherwise valid.  The agreement also requires that election officials take measures to notify UOCAVA voters of this extension and notify them of their options of returning their marked ballots by electronic upload or fax, or express mail at no expense to the voter.  The agreement also provides additional steps, if needed, to protect UOCAVA voters for the April 24, 2018 special general election.

“This agreement reflects this Department’s deep commitment to protecting the right to vote for members of our armed forces, their families, and overseas citizens, and ensuring that these voters are afforded a meaningful opportunity to vote in all federal elections, including special vacancy elections,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore for the Civil Rights Division. “I commend Arizona, the Secretary of State’s office, and other state officials, who worked collaboratively with the Department to achieve our shared goal of providing UOCAVA voters a full and fair opportunity to participate in the state’s upcoming special election, and all future special federal elections.”

UOCAVA requires states to allow uniformed service voters, serving both overseas and within the United States, and their families, and U.S. citizens residing overseas to register to vote and to vote absentee for all elections for federal office.  States are required to transmit absentee ballots to these voters, by mail or electronically at the voter’s option, no later than 45 days before each federal election, including special elections to fill vacancies for federal office.

Arizona law mandates a truncated election schedule for holding special elections to fill a vacancy for U.S. Representative, which prevented election officials from sending final ballots to UOCAVA voters by the 45th day before the Feb. 27, 2018 special primary election.  Under the terms of the agreement, Arizona will also provide reports to the Department of the notice provided to affected voters, receipt of ballots for the special primary election, and transmission of ballots for the special general election.  The state is also required to take the actions necessary to ensure that UOCAVA voters have a fair and reasonable opportunity to participate in future federal special elections. 

More information about UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/uniformed-and-overseas-citizens-absentee-voting-act. Please report any complaints to the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.

Press Release Number: 
Updated February 20, 2018