Justice Department Reaches Agreement to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in Illinois
The Justice Department announced that yesterday it reached an agreement with Illinois officials to help ensure that military service members, their family members and other U.S. citizens living overseas have an opportunity to participate fully in the upcoming Feb. 26, 2013, special primary election, and the April 9, 2013, special election to fill a vacated seat in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. The agreement is necessary to ensure Illinois’s compliance with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) as amended by the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act).
The agreement, filed yesterday evening, which must be approved by the federal district court in Chicago, requires that by Jan. 15, 2013, the state will ensure expedited transmittal of ballots for the special primary election to UOCAVA voters who have requested them by that date. The agreement also requires that by Jan. 31, 2013, the state will resolve any candidate petition challenges and ensure expedited notice to UOCAVA voters of the final list of candidates for the special primary election. The voted ballots must be postmarked by Feb. 25, 2013, and received by March 6, 2013, to be counted in the special primary election.
The agreement also requires that by March 8, 2013, the state will ensure expedited transmittal of ballots for the April 9, 2013 special election to all UOCAVA voters who have requested them. Under Illinois law, the voted ballots must be postmarked by April 8, 2013, and received by April 23, 2013 to be counted in the special election.
In addition, for both the special primary election and the special election, the state will provide all UOCAVA voters the option of returning their marked ballots by email, fax or express mail at no expense to the voter.
“This agreement reflects this department’s continued and resolute commitment to ensure that members of our armed forces, their families and overseas citizens are offered a full and meaningful opportunity to vote in all federal elections, including special elections scheduled to fill vacated seats,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I am pleased that we are able to reach this agreement with Illinois officials, which will ensure that these voters can fully participate in the state’s upcoming special primary election and special election.”
The 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 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.
Under the terms of the agreement, the state will also provide detailed reports to the department concerning the transmission of ballots for the special primary election and special election. The state will also take actions as are necessary to assure that UOCAVA voters shall have a fair and reasonable opportunity to participate in future federal elections, including actions needed to fully remedy any potential UOCAVA violations arising from Illinois law governing the state’s special election calendar.
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.