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Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 21, 2018

Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Wisconsin to Protect the Voting Rights of U.S. Citizens Residing Temporarily Overseas

The Justice Department today announced that it has entered into an agreement with the State of Wisconsin to ensure that Wisconsin voters who temporarily reside overseas receive voting protections to which they are entitled under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). Under this agreement, Wisconsin election officials will ensure that U.S. citizens residing overseas temporarily can receive their ballots electronically and utilize a Federal write-in absentee ballot to vote, if necessary, like other UOCAVA voters. 

The agreement was filed in conjunction with a lawsuit filed today alleging that Wisconsin was not affording its voters residing overseas temporarily all of the voting protections guaranteed by UOCAVA. This agreement was necessary because Wisconsin law differentiates between permanent and temporary overseas voters and as result, temporary overseas voters were deprived of certain UOCAVA protections.   

UOCAVA protects the voting rights in elections for federal office of absent uniformed service members, their family members, and U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S.  UOCAVA requires states to allow all UOCAVA voters to receive their blank absentee ballots by mail or electronically, at the voters’ option.  UOCAVA also requires States to allow all UOCAVA voters to use a Federal write-in absentee ballot as a back-up measure for voting, if the voters have applied on time for an absentee ballot but have not received the ballot from their state.  These protections extend to all overseas voters, regardless of whether the voter resides overseas indefinitely or temporarily.   

Wisconsin state election officials have agreed to take steps to implement these protections prior to the upcoming Aug. 14 Federal primary election and Nov. 6 Federal general election, and to notify local election officials and the public about these requirements. The state is also required to take steps to assure these protections for all future Federal elections.     

 “This agreement reflects the Department’s continued and resolute commitment to protecting the right to vote for members of our armed forces, their families, and overseas U.S. citizens, and ensuring that all of these voters are afforded a meaningful opportunity to vote in federal elections,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore for the Civil Rights Division.  “I commend the Wisconsin Elections Commission and the other state officials who worked with the Department to reach a resolution to guarantee that the full protections of UOCAVA are provided to all overseas voters in the upcoming 2018 Federal elections and in future Federal 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: 
18-822
Updated June 21, 2018