(Update: Federal Judge Richard Williams has ordered Virginia elections officials to keep military absentee ballots until Nov. 10, when he will hear the full case.)
(CNSNews.com) – Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign filed suit against Virginia’s electoral board Monday to allow absentee ballots cast by members of the U.S. military to be counted until Nov. 14. The lawsuit claimed that eight localities mailed the ballots late, causing them to be returned after Election Day, Nov. 4.
Filed in federal court in Richmond, the lawsuit claims that the counties of Arlington, Chesapeake, Chesterfield, Faquier, Loudon, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach, along with the City of Richmond, all failed to mail absentee ballots to members of the military deployed outside of Virginia 45 days prior to the election, as required under federal law.
The McCain campaign said that because the localities in question failed to comply with federal law, some absentee ballots will not be received by the Nov. 4 deadline and therefore will not be counted.“The government screwed up,” said Gerry Scimeca, communications director for the Republican Party of Virginia. “A handful of localities sent them out 10 days late, so we’re asking the court to extend the deadline 10 days in order to receive them.”
Federal law requires absentee ballots to be mailed 45 days prior to the election to give soldiers and others ample time to consider their choice, fill out the ballots and return them by election day.
Scimeca said that when the localities failed to do so, they violated the civil rights of service members by effectively denying them the right to vote.
“The reasonable time is 45 days, (so) because they (the soldiers) are depending upon the government to get their ballots in a timely manner, and they didn’t, they will be denied the right to vote if this isn’t remedied,” said Scimeca. “That’s why we think their civil rights have been denied.”
Not Just Virginia
Problems with absentee ballots for service members is apparently not isolated to Virginia. CNSNews.com has learned of other cases where military personnel went to lengths to try to vote absentee but did not receive their ballots.
Some U.S. soldiers who support McCain have not received their absentee ballots as of election time despite meeting the application requirements in time, according to two U.S. soldiers and one civilian contractor who spoke with CNSNews.com.
Although he applied in person and followed up with phone calls to local officials in his hometown of Carmel, Indiana, U.S. Army Pfc. Stephen Aichele said he will not have the opportunity to vote and that he is not alone.
Aichele called into the Mike Church Show, a conservative radio program, on Nov. 3 to express his consternation with the absentee ballot process. This opened the way for other U.S. military personnel to call in with similar reports.
“I never received my ballot,” said Aichele. “I went down in person to apply, even called to confirm that it had been sent, and I’m told it was. But it never came my way.”
As an alternative, Aichele attempted to register in North Carolina, a crucial swing state in this year’s election, where he is stationed with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg.
At Fort Knox in Kentucky there apparently have been similar problems with the mailing system, U.S. Army Pfc. Tarynn Aichele told CNSNews.com. Stephen and Tarynn Aichele are husband and wife.
“A lot of the absentee ballots are being sent back because something is wrong with the address,” she said. “There are a lot of us who are having this problem.”
U.S. soldiers stationed overseas in Iraq have had their own set of problems with absentee ballots, according to a civilian contractor stationed at Camp Delta, which is located in the southern part of the country near the border of Iran.
Curtis Bryan Albrecht, is registered to vote in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and has his mail on a “permanent forward” to Cheyenne’s main post office, he explained in an e-mail message to CNSNews.com. “Even if that wasn’t sufficient to get my absentee ballot forwarded to me, I updated my mailing address with the Clerk of Courts nearly three months ago.”
“I’ve heard many complaints about people not receiving their absentee ballot,” he wrote.