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September 25, 2010

Guardsman, D.C. group sue Md. elections board

Baltimore Sun colleague Andrea Siegel reports:

A member of the Maryland National Guard has filed a federal lawsuit against the State Board of Elections, claiming military personnel and other overseas Marylanders could be denied the opportunity to vote for state offices in the general election unless the court intervenes.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the anonymous guardsman identified as Officer John Doe says the state did not give overseas voters enough time to obtain and return ballots for statewide offices in the November elections, which include the contest for governor.

Joining as co-plaintiff is the Military Voter Protection Project. Eric Eversole, the Navy judge advocate general who heads the Washington-based organization, says the ballots for federal offices that the Maryland board sent a few days after this month’s primary elections were not valid.

Results of the Sept. 14 primary have not yet been certified; for the seat now held by Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ballots includes provisions to mark either of two Republican challengers who are locked in a tight primary contest.

Eversole worked in the voting section of the civil rights division of the Justice Department during the Bush administration, and advised the McCain-Palin campaign on military voting matters. He said the lawsuit was not motivated by partisanship.

Ross Goldstein, deputy director of the elections board, declined to comment directly on the lawsuit. But he said the Justice Department and military authorities signed off on the office’s plan to send out ballots for congressional offices quickly after the primaries.

A 2009 federal law requires that ballots for federal races be available to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.

The Military Voter Protection Project is asking a federal judge to order that ballots be sent by Oct. 8 and to extend the deadline for counting them to Nov. 22.

Elections officials plan to send full absentee ballots to the affected voters by mid-October. The ballots must be returned to the state board by Nov. 12. Primary results are to be certified Monday; challenges are possible.

Maryland holds primary elections only seven weeks before the general election, the briefest interim in the nation. Elections officials had sought a waiver from the federal Military and Overseas Empowerment Act requirement before withdrawing the request.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:33 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Comments

So once again Maryland's solution to the MOVE Act was to make overseas military and National Guard troops second class citizens. We don't get to vote for state races? Governor? The Governor race is arguably the most important race on the ballot this year...Thank G-d for this organization for standing for our rights while DOJ is busy shredding black panther documents.

How about the ballots for CD8??!?!

Civilian overseas voters are also affected. Here I am on a temporary assignment in Bulgaria, and I have yet to receive my absentee ballot, the Sunday before the election.

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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