Judge Extends Deadline for Overseas Votes

A federal judge approved a settlement Friday between Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell (search) and the parents of two servicemen who sued to extend the deadline for counting overseas military and civilian ballots for president.

The deadline for counting the presidential ballots was extended by eight days to 5 p.m. on Nov. 10. Rendell said he would also seek the same extension for state election races.

Rendell agreed to seek a seven-day extension after resisting Republican calls for a two-week extension for several days. He told a news conference in Philadelphia that Republicans could produce only one voter — out of 26,000 overseas military and civilian voters — who failed to get the absentee ballot he requested.

Nonetheless, "Even if it's just one or two votes, their votes should be counted," Rendell said.

Robert J. Reitz Sr., who sued on behalf of his son, said the deadline may not leave enough time for Army Spc. Steven J. Reitz to return the ballot he received Thursday in Baghdad. But he said the additional time may benefit others.

"In light of all the others that will get in between now and then, it's the best we can do," he said.

The two sides, helped along by U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane, negotiated in her chambers for three hours Friday morning before reaching the compromise.

The Republican-financed lawsuit was filed Wednesday and named Rendell and Secretary of State Pedro Cortes. It had sought a 15-day extension for the ballots' return.

GOP state Sen. John Pippy, an Army reserve captain who served in Iraq, criticized Rendell's proposal for a one-week extension, saying the governor had asked for — and received — a nearly three-week extension for counting absentee ballots in the April primary.

Pippy told a news conference in Pittsburgh that it took three to six weeks for mail to get from the United States to Iraq when he served there in the reserve.

Officials with the state Republican Party, whose efforts to intervene in the case were halted by the settlement, said the party was considering filing its own federal lawsuit asking to push back the deadline further farther.

When Rendell initially resisted asking for an extension, thousands of callers jammed phone lines at the governor's office.