Illinois Challenge for Military Ballots

As work gets underway Monday morning, members of the House Administration committee will receive a letter from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. The letter urges an investigation into shortcomings of election districts tasked with providing absentee voters, specifically combat soldiers, ballots in the time required by law.

"I respectfully write with an urgent request for the House Administration Committee to investigate serious deficiencies in the nationwide implementation and enforcement of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009," writes Brady.

The MOVE act is an amendment to the 1986 Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ("UOCAVA"). The key element of that act is the requirement that ballots be sent 45 days ahead of the election, creating ample time for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to receive their ballots and mail them back in time to be counted. That means ballots needed to be mailed by September 18th.

In 35 out of 110 Illinois voting districts, they were not. At least one district was 20 days late.

Brady's letter claims efforts by the Department of Justice and the Illinois State Board of Elections to ensure compliance with the law were "lackadaisical at best." The letter claims the DOJ sent a status inquiry to the Illinois SBE four days before the legal deadline and the response was a two sentence e-mail assuring the DOJ that Illinois Electoral Districts were on track to meet the deadline. There was no county by country request for information and no mention that counties in Illinois were refusing to print, until a court challenge to include a 3rd party on the ballot was resolved.

Representatives of the SBE, the DOJ and the Illinois Attorney General, met and produced a consent decree that adds one day for soldiers and other Illinois absentee voters to get postmarks on their returning ballots. It provides more time for the ballots to be counted, but the point of contention for Illinois Republicans is that the period of time for some soldiers and other absentee voters to receive and return their ballots is unfairly shortened.

So, Illinois Republicans are requesting an investigation on behalf of American service members, "that their votes are not disenfranchised by the accidental or willful acts of local election authorities, and that the Department of Justice vigorously ensure that the provisions of the MOVE Act are enforced."