Thursday, October 23, 2008

Military Prevented From Voting In Virginia: UPDATED

Military Prevented From Voting In Virginia
October 22nd, 2008 by CJ
The Fairfax County Registrar—and possibly other Registrars in Virginia—is rejecting most Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots (FWAB) cast by our men and women in uniform.

The FWAB is a federally mandated write-in ballot that allows military servicemembers and their dependents to cast an absentee ballot when they have not received a ballot before the election. It is a safety net that allows a servicemember to vote even if the mail truck hasn't reached his or her remote base in Iraq or Afghanistan in time to cast a regular absentee ballot.

Why is the Fairfax Registrar rejecting these ballots?
The Registrar states that the witness who signs the envelope containing the FWAB must include his or her address—but most of the ballots don't include the witness' address.

Virginia law does not require a witness address for any other type of absentee ballot. So, for example, a Virginia resident attending college out of state does not need to include her witness' address on her absentee ballot envelope. But the Fairfax County Registrar is holding servicemembers, including those currently defending their country in war zones, to a much more exacting standard, requiring the witnesses who sign their FWABs to include their address.

To make matters worse, the Federal form (SF-186A) that is used for the FWAB does not have a space for witnesses to include their address. And the Department of Defense's official Voting Assistance Guide, which it provides to servicemembers as an instruction manual for casting votes while overseas, does not tell servicemembers that they must include an address for their witness. The servicemember would thus have no way of knowing of this requirement.

Federal law does not allow this type of disparate treatment of servicemembers. The Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act (UOCAVA), 42 U.S.C. § 1973ff-2, requires states to process FWABs "in the manner provided by law for absentee ballots in the State involved." (emphasis added). In other words, the FWAB must be treated like any other absentee ballot under state law and may not be subject to more restrictive requirements. Yet that is precisely what is being done here.

Express your feelings to the state directly:
Virginia State Board of Elections
Suite 101, 200 North 9th Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219-3485
Telephone: 804 864-8901 Toll Free: 800 552-9745 FAX: 804 371-0194

UPDATED: via Riehl World View
Passed along by a reader of a non-linkable military board. As some Va ballots were tossed for this reason and who knows how many others, a post card must be completed and mailed in. It's time sensitive.

The State of Virginia announced that a number of Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) members submitted Federal Write-In Absentee Ballots (FWAB) which will not be counted due to administrative errors. Virginia requires FWABs submitted as both an absentee ballot application and as a voted ballot contain both the witness' signature and the witness' address to be counted in the General Election. Having consulted both FVAP and the Virginia Absentee Voter Office, we recommend that voters who submitted the FWAB as both their application and their ballot complete a Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) and email it to their county voter registration office NLT 1700 28 OCT 08. Once the FPCA arrives, the voted ballot already on hand becomes valid and will be counted. The Army Voting Action Officer is emailing this information to the Senior Voting Assistance Officers (SVAOs) and Installation Voting Assistance Officers (IVAOs) for dissemination and action by voters. See your Unit Voting Assistance Officer (UVAO) for assistance.

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