Justice Department Reaches Agreement to Protect Rights of Military and Overseas Voters in New Mexico
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with New Mexico officials to help ensure that military service members and other U.S. citizens living overseas have an opportunity to participate fully in the Nov. 2, 2010, federal general election. The agreement was necessary to ensure New Mexico’s compliance with the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act).
The agreement was filed in conjunction with a lawsuit by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division alleging that election officials in six New Mexico counties violated federal law when they failed to transmit ballots by Sept. 18, 2010, to military and overseas voters who requested absentee ballots. The affected counties are Curry, Los Alamos, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Taos. The agreement extends the deadline for receipt of ballots from military and overseas voters. Ballots from eligible voters who requested ballots by Sept. 18, 2010, that are executed and sent by Nov. 2, 2010, and received by 7:00 p.m. on Nov. 6, 2010, will be counted.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (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.
"The Justice Department is committed to vigorous enforcement of the MOVE Act so that members of the uniformed services, their families and other citizens living overseas are able to exercise their right to vote and know their votes will be counted," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "I am pleased that officials in New Mexico worked cooperatively with the Department to reach this agreement, which will ensure that the state’s military and overseas voters can participate in the upcoming federal elections."
As part of the agreement, the state will take s teps to ensure compliance in future federal elections and provide a report to the Department of Justice on those efforts.
The department previously reached agreements with Alaska, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Nevada, North Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and filed lawsuits against New York, Wisconsin and Guam seeking relief to help ensure that military service members and other U.S. citizens living overseas have the opportunity to participate fully in the upcoming election. More information about UOCAVA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/voting/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.