- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

RICHMOND | A federal judge ruled Friday that Virginia violated the voting rights of military service members and other Americans living overseas when electoral officials failed to send them ballots for last year’s presidential election on time.

U.S. District Judge Richard Williams also ordered the Virginia Board of Elections to count and certify valid absentee ballots for the election after it reaches an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on how the process will be conducted. The count won’t change the outcome of the election, which President Obama won in Virginia by nearly 233,000 votes.

The ballots from military service members and others living outside Virginia were the focus of a lawsuit filed by Republican candidate John McCain’s campaign, which alleged that they weren’t mailed in time for voters to cast their ballots before the polls closed on Nov. 4, 2008. The Justice Department replaced the campaign as the plaintiff after Judge Williams ruled that the Republican ticket lacked standing to sue.

Judge Williams said in an opinion Thursday that Virginia’s failure to mail more than 2,100 absentee ballots at least 30 days before the election violated the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. At least 96 of the ballots were received by local registrars after the polls closed and were not counted.

The state elections board and the Justice Department have 19 days to determine the counting and certification procedure and to put it in writing. The state then has 10 more days to count and certify the ballots. Representatives held discussions earlier this month, but the sides had failed to reach an agreement.

Judge Williams also said the two sides must determine how to ensure that election officials comply with the overseas voting act in future federal elections.

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