The Corner

Will Military Voters Be Disenfranchised?

One question that remains unanswered in the Virginia and NY-23 elections is whether overseas military voters will once again be disenfranchised. In Virginia, a source sent me a copy of an email sent to local election officials on October 9 by Vickie Williams, the absentee voting coordinator for the Virginia Board of Elections. Williams’s e-mail said that “It has recently come to our attention that some localities did not began[sic] absentee mailings 45 days (9/18/09) before the election,” as required under a new state law. She asked local election officials to certify when they began mailing requested absentee ballots. This is a particularly important issue for military voters stationed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan because of the long transit time for round-trip mail service. Mailing ballots at least 45 days before they are due is the time recommended for military voters, and is in fact the deadline contained in a new law that just passed Congress.

In New York, the governor set the election with only 35 days notice, which is ten days short of the recommended 45-day minimum. So when did the counties in the 23rd congressional district actually get their ballots printed and mailed out to military voters (such as the thousands of members of the Tenth Mountain Division deployed in Afghanistan)? Thirty days before November 3? Twenty-five days before November 3?

The question of when Virginia and New York actually mailed out their absentee ballots  is something that investigative journalists in both states should be probing, even as we go into what may be a very exciting Election Day. Otherwise, our military voters may be disenfranchised, as courts determined they were in Virginia in the November 2008 elections, and in New York in the March 2009 special congressional election for the 20th district.