EDITORIAL: Justice punts away military votes

Attorney General Holder should badger Wisconsin for full compliance

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

The U.S. Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section has reached an agreement with the state of Wisconsin that is too weak to adequately protect military voters stationed overseas. The department should not get away with letting other states give short shrift to the voting rights of our armed forces.

In 2008, a disturbing 38 percent - 2,125 out of 5,562 - of ballots requested by Wisconsin’s overseas military personnel were either not returned on time, returned as undeliverable or rejected for reasons such as a lack of proper witness signature. It’s possible that a soldier who went to the trouble of requesting a ballot might choose not to fill it out, but it’s unlikely. More likely is that many of those voters received their ballots so late that they figured there was no way to return them on time to be counted, and thus they didn’t bother trying.

It was to combat a nationwide problem of would-be military votes going uncast or uncounted that Congress in 2009 passed the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires states to mail absentee ballots to military personnel upon request at least 45 days in advance of the general election. UOCAVA allowed states to receive one-time waivers under restricted circumstances that include an explanation of how else the state will ensure military voting rights. However, the Defense Department rejected the Dairy State’s waiver request as providing insufficient guarantees.

Enter the Justice Department, which let cheddarhead officials off the hook. Wisconsin’s waiver request asked permission to mail the ballots 29 days in advance while allowing military votes to be counted up to 10 days after Election Day. The new agreement requires ballot mailing 32 days in advance and counting of the votes up to 17 days after. Unfortunately, this jury-rigged 49-day window isn’t as good as the regular 45-day window.

“Time after the election is different in quality than time before. The MOVE Act was explicitly designed to add time before an election to ensure the solider would get a ballot in time to benefit from the express delivery requirement under the MOVE Act,” election-law expert J. Christian Adams explained to Pajamas Media. “This guarantees that ballots placed in military mail at least 7 days before an election will be returned in time to be counted. By sending ballots just 32 days before the election, many overseas soldiers will be denied this important guarantee. Congress specifically rejected post-election add-on time as a solution.”

Another real-world consideration argues against this “count-the-votes-later” solution. In vote-counting as in property rights, possession effectively is nine-tenths of the law. When election results are announced the day after regular balloting, the media often treat any subsequent changes as being suspicious. The longer after an election the ballots trickle in, the less valid those ballots are likely to be seen to be - and the more time there will be for clever lawyers to invent novel ways to block their counting.

Congress was wise to set the 45-day deadline to allow ballots to be forwarded to troops on the move in remote locales around the world. The Justice Department is derelict in allowing states to avoid those requirements for insufficient alternatives.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts