General Registrar Responds to Misinformation about Federal Write-in Absentee Ballots

Update: Fairfax County to Comply with SBE Ruling (Oct. 28, 2008)

Oct. 24, 2008

More Information 

“Some overseas ballots do not fulfill the requirements of Virginia law, and these ballots cannot be counted,” said Fairfax County General Registrar Rokey Suleman in response to misinformation that has been spreading about Fairfax County not counting certain ballots from military voters. “This is a problem that needs a legislative solution.”

According to Virginia Code § 24.2-702.1, a federal write-in absentee ballot that is being submitted as both an absentee ballot application and as a completed absentee ballot must include the signature and address of a witness. Some of the federal write-in absentee ballots received by Fairfax County that meet the above criteria are missing the address of the witness and cannot be counted, according to the state law. This law also is authorized by U.S. Code § 1973ff-2. States have the authority to build on the U.S. code, and create additional standards to combat fraud. These laws also were reaffirmed by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

“We cannot selectively enforce the law, we must adhere to the current state code,” Suleman said.

Voters eligible to use federal write-in absentee ballots include people living overseas, Peace Corps volunteers and those serving in the military, among others.

“We are seeing the unintended consequences of a law that was put in place in 2002, and compounded by a change to the federal ballot in 2005, to prevent voter fraud,” said Suleman. “Despite the requirement listed in the instructions, some voters are not aware that the witness needs to provide their address. Unfortunately, a missing name and address precludes Fairfax County from counting that vote per state law.”

For more information on this contact the general registrar, call Suleman at 703-222-0776, TTY 711.



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